Submitted by the Local Government Association
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
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
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
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
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.