Supplementary memorandum by Department
for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (LGA 22(b))
Evaluation contract and the milestones to be used
in assessing the success or failure of the Act (Q146)
A large-scale programme of long-term policy
evaluations is being put in place right across the Local Government
Modernisation Agenda. Evaluation has a key role to play in determining
whether individual policy elements of the modernisation agenda
are being delivered in the way intended, and how they might be
fine-tuned to increase their effectiveness. It will also provide
detailed information about the medium long-term impacts of each
of these policies. To date, evaluations have been commissioned
on: Best Value, Local Strategic Partnerships, new council constitutions
and ethical framework, the Beacon Councils scheme, Asset Management
Plans and Capital Strategies and the implementation of electronic
In relation to the research on Parts II and
III of the Act, this is a five-year study with a final report
in spring 2007. There will be other reports at key stages throughout
the project and opportunities to request issue papers on specific
aspects of policy. Before evaluating the impact of the legislation,
the research team will develop a framework for analysis. The need
for a clear framework reflects the importance of robust measures
of achievement for a number of policy objectives, such as improved
transparency, accountability, efficiency in new council constitutions
and improved clarity and trust through standards arrangements.
We will need to ensure the measures developed are valid, in that
they actually measure what they are intended to measure, and are
given appropriate weight in the overall evaluation.
There will also be a five-year research programme
to support Local Strategic Partnership intended to help practitioners,
advisers and policy-makers at local, regional and central levels.
The project will disseminate findings and good practice guidance
materials. They will be issued on paper and through websites (IDeA
Knowledge and NRU Knowledge Management System). Government Offices
will participate in learning and dissemination activities. Quarterly
research updates will be e-mailed to a wide stakeholder network.
A hard copy of the main research specifications
follows by hand.
Individual evaluations will not provide a picture
of the cumulative impact of the modernisation agenda as a whole.
The Department has, therefore, been developing an overarching
evaluation. A feasibility report, drawing upon discussions with
a range of interested parties, has been produced in order to take
this forward and can be found at: http:www.local.dtlr.gov.uk/research/feaseval.doc
on the Department's website. The Department is currently in the
process of tendering and commissioning a research organisation
to undertake this more generic evaluation.
Examples of occasions where councils have used
their well-being power (Q154)
I fear we have difficulty in providing specific
examples of uses of the power in the sense of pointing to concrete
examples of things done which could not previously have been done.
One reason for the difficulty is that the power is so broad. Councils
may see it as a power of first resort. To identify just how specific
actions go beyond previous vires would mean reconciling
each activity with the specific powers in place before the Local
Government Act 2000. This is not something we had set out to monitor,
partly because it would require detailed access which we do not
have to councils' internal legal advice.
There is evidence that local authorities have
a good level of awareness about the well-being power. A Local
Government Association survey in autumn 2001 "Follow the
Leaders" found that, of the 67 per cent of English and Welsh
authorities which responded, 63 per cent of authorities have provided
briefings for members on the well-being power.
One purpose of the power is to support the efforts
of councils and their partners to work more closely together on
Local Strategic Partnerships and other initiatives, for example
by providing councils with powers to make agreements with any
partners or co-ordinate activities, or to work across boundaries.
The well-being power will also enable local authorities to participate
in companies, trusts or charities. These extensions or vires
are important, for example, to partnership working with the health
sector. Since most local authorities are not coterminous with
health authorities, the power provides opportunities for action
between neighbouring health and local authorities, without worrying
about where particular clients live or what spending goes to which
area. It also enables joint action to protect the well-being and
health of communities at risk from environmental pollution, crime,
economic decline or health hazards when these communities reside
across authorities' boundaries.
Why farmers have an exemption from the declaration
of interest in codes of conduct for National Parks but no other
groups are given exemptions, for example in Parish Councils (Q167)
Each code contains some general dispensations
which enable a member to take part in discussions where he or
she might otherwise be considered to have a prejudicial interest.
The national parks and broads code contains two such "exemptions",
to cover farmers and navigators. That is because farmers may own
land in a park area, or, in the case of the Broads, navigation
appointees may own boat companies. It would be odd to appoint
people because of their expertise on a subject and then say that
their expertise then ruled them out because it prejudiced their
view of the public interest. The dispensations therefore allow
those with farming and navigation backgrounds to participate in
general discussions, as long as they declare their interest where
it has a bearing on specific business. Furthermore it would also
require them to withdraw if the discussion related particularly
to any employment or business carried on, or land owned by the
member, a relative or friend.
Q. Some local authorities have received counsel's
opinion stating that they cannot use the new power to promote
well-being without having a community strategy in place. Is this
advice correct and how does it fit with the DTLR guidance that
says they can?
Interpretation and advice on law is ultimately
for the courts, and local authorities' own legal advice. Subject
to that, our view is that, within the context of Local Government
Act 2000, there is no requirement to have a community strategy
before the power to promote well-being can be used. We have discussed
the issue with the Local Government Association, and their opinion
is the same.
It was said during Parliamentary proceedings
that the provision requiring a local authority to have regard
to its strategy was in no way meant to limit the ability of local
authorities to take action under section 2(1). The statutory guidance
reaffirms this position; paragraph 25 states that:
"Where a local authority does not yet have
its community strategy in place, it is not prevented from exercising
the power to promote well being".
Q. How many local authorities currently have
a local strategic partnership in place?
Last year, a Local Government Association (LGA)
survey indicated that all local authorities expected to have an
LSP covering their area by April this year. However, given that
not all LAs responded to that survey, there may well still be
some places where LSPs do not yet exist.
More comprehensive research is being carried
out on behalf of DTLR this summer to update the picture. We will
place a copy of the findings of the survey in the House of Commons
It is also worth noting that guidance is not
prescriptive about the area that an LSP may cover, or about how
LAs combine to work jointly. Not every local authority necessarily
has its own LSP. For example, in Northamptonshire, the county
is working through the districts' LSPs. In West Cornwall, two
district councils have formed one LSP.
Q. What proportion of LSPs are currently led
by the local authority? What proportion do you envisage being
local authority led by the end of the year?
It's a moot point whether a partnership-based
structure such as an LSP can be said to be "led" by
any one body, as it is for local partners themselves to decide
who should chair an LSP and how it should be resourced and organised.
Different bodies may "lead" on different issues.
The bar chart below, taken from a survey undertaken
by the LGA last year, suggests which bodies chair and provide
financial and secretarial support for LSPs. It suggests that at
the time of the survey, respondents were saying that about half
were engaged in LSPs chaired by their own authority, and two-thirds
in LSPs for which their own authority provided secretarial support.
In 10 per cent of cases the chair came from another local authority,
in 14 per cent the chair rotated and in other cases came from
another public body (6 per cent), the private sector (6 per cent),
a voluntary or community sector organisation (8 per cent) or was
joint or not known. LSPs are evolving fast, and this information
will be updated as part of the research being undertaken for DTLR
It would not be appropriate for us to take a
view on how many LSPs may be local authority "led" by
the end of this year, as it will be a matter for local partners
to determine. However, last year's Local Government White Paper
set out the Government's position on the role of councils on LSPs
"Council's role on local strategic partnerships
2.35 Councils have a particular responsibility
towards LSPs. Our recent guidance reflects this. We look to councils
to be the prime movers in instigating LSPs where they do not already
exist and in guiding them through their early stages. Once LSPs
have been set up the partnerships themselves should decide who
leads. As many as one in four LSPs are chaired by partners other
than the local authority. This is in keeping with our non-prescriptive
approach. That does not mean that once an LSP has been established
a local authority's leadership role has ceased. Irrespective of
who chairs an LSP, someone needs to take responsibility and be
accountable for ensuring that:
the membership and methods of
consultation and engagement are balanced and inclusive;
difficult decisions are addressed
and resolved, not just the easy ones. Those decisions should not
simply represent the "lowest common denominator"; and
the partners properly resource
and support the LSP.
2.36 In one sense these responsibilities
are shared by all partners. But someone needs to step forward
and take a lead on these issues if others are failing to do so.
This is a key part of every council's responsibility as the community
Q. The guidance requires local authorities
to have similar levels of openness to other authorities of a similar
type and size. How do you monitor this and to what extent are
such arrangements now in place?
Currently there is no mechanism for monitoring
such arrangements centrally. The Government believes that authorities
are best placed to ensure that they are taking the guidance into
As part of a review of access to information
during 2002 the Department will be consulting with local authorities
to establish best practice in defining key decisions. There is
also a possibility that comparisons between authorities will be
included in longer term evaluation research described above.
A D Whetnall