Select Committee on Home Affairs Memoranda


Submitted by the Local Government Association (LGA)

  The Local Government Association wishes to submit the following comments to assist you with your inquiry into the National Drugs Strategy as set out in "Tackling Drugs to Build a Better Britain". The LGA's views will be important to the inquiry as they represent the views of almost 500 local authorities in England and Wales, and the communities they serve. The LGA wishes to confine their initial comments to the inquiry to three main areas.

The National Structure for the delivery of the Drugs Strategy

  The LGA believes that whilst the National Strategy is in concept still sound it has several faults within it, in particular these are:

    —  There is a concern that Drug Action Teams are not properly accountable to local communities. We believe that elected Members should take a leadership role in the local oversight of DAT performance. There is a need to rethink and clarify the role of Drug Action Teams as the vehicle for delivering the National Strategy at a local level, including an urgent review of their legal status and the infrastructure support that they require to manage the workload expected. Attention also needs to be given to the networking of Drug Action Teams into the other partnership arrangements that exist within local communities (Crime and Disorder Partnerships, Youth Offending Teams, Neighbourhood Renewal) and in particular their relationship to Local Strategic Partnerships. Local government has a central role in addressing these issues in the lives of those living in local communities. It provides services like housing, social services, education, environmental health, economic regeneration, employment opportunities, sport and recreation, community safety etc, which all impact on the quality of people's lives and influence the choices people make.

    —  The support mechanisms available from central government to the delivery of the local strategy also require examination. We have concerns at the potential for "departmentalism" now that the lead role has reverted to the Home Office. National planning needs to include representatives of the local partners. The creation of the National Treatment Agency, and the availability of funds within the communities against drugs budget are welcomed. The nature of the relationship between the Drug Prevention Advisory Service and Drug Action Teams needs to be clarified. It will be important to ensure that DPAS is both a support to Drug Action Teams, and also monitors national standards and objectives.

    —  One of the weakest aspects of the original strategy was the range of performance indicators that were suggested. Many of these are not robust and are not set against a firm statistical background, nor is sufficient clarity given to ensure that there is consistency of measures or their application.

    —  The modernising local government agenda makes it important that there is clarity in the Drug Action Teams' links to new political process and to strategic bodies. We are concerned that the shape of the modernised health service will impact negatively on planning and commissioning processes across Drug Action Team areas. The creation of Strategic Health Authorities will in many cases take the responsibility for health input into DAT work away from co-terminosity with Local Authorities. It is not clear whether Primary Care Trusts (the successor bodies) will give any priority to Drugs and Alcohol work at a time when they are new organisations with many other pressing priorities. These changes re-enforce the case for local authority leadership of the DAT partnerships.


  It is not possible to separate the issues raised by misuse of alcohol and its impact on society from those created by drugs. The delay in the publication of the National Alcohol Strategy and the targeting of new resources to drug only interventions cause problems for local agencies who work with the consequences of misuse of both. We believe that it is essential that there is a clear strategy integrated with drug misuse as soon as possible. This would mean broadening the role of the National Treatment Agency to include alcohol treatment and requiring all DATs not already dealing with alcohol to do so.


  We have welcomed the pooled budgets for treatment services as well as the development of the National Treatment Agency. These will enable Drug Action Teams to plan treatment services according to local need in a coherent manner. There is still a tendency to produce local initiatives that are announced very suddenly with short timescales for very specific areas, for example, Positive Futures and Progress II Work. These are difficult to integrate into overall planning processes and often cut across areas of work already in progress.

  There is no major problem with the availability of finance, rather clearly established expenditure priorities. We support the role to be given to Drug Action Teams in developing local plans and deciding how services should be developed and finance committed.


  When announced we welcomed the fact that this strategy was for 10 years. We believe that this is a long haul issue that requires a long-term political commitment from both central and local government. We would wish to give oral evidence to the Committee.

September 2001

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