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CENTRAL LOCAL PARTNERSHIP

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									CENTRAL LOCAL PARTNERSHIP

Minutes of the meeting held on 22 January 2003 at Eland House

Government

Deputy Prime Minister - Chair
Rt Hon Nick Raynsford MP, Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
Barbara Roche MP, Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
Christopher Leslie MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary, Office of the Deputy Prime
Minister
Tony McNulty MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary, Office of the Deputy Prime
Minister
Rt Hon Paul Boateng MP, Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Rt Hon Alun Michael MP, Minister of State at Department of Environment, Food and
Rural Affairs
Rt Hon John Spellar MP, Minister of State at Department For Transport
Rosie Winterton MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary, Lord Chancellor’s Department
Rt Hon Richard Caborn MP Minister of State Department For Culture, Media and
Sport
Malcolm Wicks MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Work at the Department for
Work and Pensions
Rt Hon Dr John Reid Labour Party Chairman
Jacqui Smith MP, Minister of State at the Department of Health
Ivan Lewis, MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department of Education
and Skills
Mavis McDonald CBE, Permanent Secretary, ODPM
Alasdair McGowan No 10 Policy Unit
Peter Kane OPSR
Philip Wood, Director General, Local Government
Andrew Whetnall, Director, Local Government
Clive Norris
Kevin Lloyd
Phil Carey
Ian McKenzie
Julie Burt Deputy Prime Minister’s Private Secretary
Leigh Bura
Iain Sear
Christine Close

From the Local Government Association

Cllr Sir Jeremy Beecham (LGA Chairman)
Cllr Sir Sandy Bruce Lockhart OBE (LGA Vice-Chairman)
Cllr Mark Edgell
Cllr Peter Chalke CBE
Cllr Chris Clarke OBE (LGA Vice-Chairman)
Cllr Ruth Coleman
Cllr Sir Harry Jones CBE
Cllr Dame Sally Powell DBE
Cllr Ian Swithenbank CBE
Cllr Milner Whiteman OBE (LGA Vice-Chairman)
Cllr Gordon Keymer CBE

Sir Brian Briscoe Chief Executive
Phil Swann Director of Strategy and Communications
Neil Kinghan Director Economic and Environmental Policy
John Rees Director of Central Services
Marie Evernden
Gillian Enlund
Mandy Skinner


Apologies from:

Rt Hon Lord Rooker
Alan Johnson MP
Rt Hon David Blunkett MP


Introduction

1. The Central Local Partnership expressed sympathy for Lord Rooker’s recent
   bereavement.

2. The Deputy Prime Minister welcomed everyone and began by outlining plans on
   the day’s announcement to modernise Right to Buy. Local authorities were key
   players and should be amongst the first to know. The Government remained fully
   committed to the scheme but it needed updating in order to meet the needs of
   modern housing markets and to underpin the key priorities in the Communities
   Plan. The maximum discount available to tenants would now be £16,000 and
   would apply to no more than 42 local authority areas. The Government would
   consult those authorities and give them opportunity to argue for opting out of the
   proposed reduction.

3. The Deputy Prime Minister added that, with immediate effect, it would now be
   made easier for local authorities to seek to designate rural areas for special
   restrictions on the Right to Buy. Areas with no second home problem or with
   smallish market towns could also be covered by restrictions on resales of Right to
   Buy properties.

4. Councillor Sir Jeremy Beecham welcomed the moves for rural areas and asked
   whether it would be possible for other local authorities to opt in. The Deputy
   Prime Minister said it would be for local authorities to make a judgement about
   their own involvement.

5. The Deputy Prime Minister thought it might also be useful to provide an update
   on the fire dispute, given that the Government is responsible for resourcing the
   Service but he made clear that this should not be seen in any way as directing
   the fire services employers. The dispute should be settled through negotiations
   between the two sides. The Government was committed to taking forward the
   Bain Report. The Government was pressing on with the Repeal of section 19 of
   the 1947 Fire Services Act through the Local Government Bill. The Government
   would soon issue for consultation revised guidance on a new approach to fire
   cover, drawn up by Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Fire Services. The Fire
   Service Inspectorate was being modernised and restructured to fulfil its new
   responsibilities putting in place new structures to drive forward reform. A White
   Paper on which the Government would work with the LGA would follow later in
   the year, followed by legislation at the earliest opportunity. Finally, a new forum
   would be established of fire and other emergency service leaders. Summing up,
   the Deputy Prime Minister said that central Government would need to work
   closely with fire authorities to help drive forward the modernisation agenda.

6. Councillor Peter Chalke raised the issue of distribution of resources; in particular
   it would be more difficult to secure savings in rural areas where there was much
   greater reliance on retained fire fighters. The Deputy Prime Minister noted this
   but stressed that it was a matter for the employers to put forward a case effect.

Item 1 Communities Plan

7. The Deputy Prime Minister emphasised that the Communities Plan was not a
   White Paper. It was a comprehensive programme of action that would address
   the problem of the decline in social housing and set out priorities for the next
   three years of expenditure. The LGA would receive a copy of the Plan before the
   launch, which was likely to take place during the first week in February. The
   Deputy Prime Minister added that (if necessary), he was happy for the
   Communities Plan Sub-Group to reconvene before publication of the
   Communities Plan, or for other ways to be found to ensure a constructive
   dialogue if the LGA would find it helpful.

8. Tony McNulty fed back from the two meetings of the Sub-Group on sustainable
   communities held in November. Overall, it was important to consider the main
   elements that constituted sustainable communities and to identify the inhibitors
   to development, particularly in terms of new housing in areas of high demand and
   of redevelopment in low demand areas. Some of these problems would be
   addressed through the current planning system. The Minister was encouraged
   by the shared desire to respond to the challenges and congratulated local
   government on its involvement such as in the low demand pathfinders A joint
   approach would drive the agenda forward and inform developments within the
   Communities Plan. In terms of content, the coverage of the Plan would broadly
   be the same as for the Deputy Prime Minister’s statement to the House on 18
   July. The core of the plan would be tackling long-term supply and demand issues
   in the housing market, so tackling low demand, abandonment and progressing
   the growth areas would be prominent. The plan would also cover delivery of
   existing plans for new housing in high demand areas. Policies for delivering the
   2010 decent homes target have been reviewed and the Plan would reflect the
   conclusions of that review. The Plan would also look beyond the social sector to
   conditions in private housing. The success of the Plan would be centrally
   dependent. Local government and the Government would work closely with
   councils and other stakeholders.
9. Cllr Sir Sandy Bruce Lockhart acknowledged the shared ambition to carry the
   Communities Plan agenda forward. The LGA and Ministers shared common
   aspirations for sustainable, strong communities. There was a need to create the
   highest quality of build and community infra structure in both the renewal of
   abandoned areas and in growth areas. Setting targets was one step but other
   factors had to be considered. The provision of employment was particularly
   important in creating sustainable communities. Funding was a crucial issue. Once
   funds were allocated to housing, the housing stock itself was relatively
   straightforward to improve, but it was vital that funds were accompanied by
   funding for improvement in schools, health, transport leisure facilities and
   employment at the same time. There needed to be sustained investment.

10. The Minister of State, Department of Culture, Media and Sport said that the
   development of Planning and Guidance for Open Spaces (PPG 17)
   demonstrated the importance of getting all the component sectors working
   together.

11. Cllr Dame Sally Powell agreed that the improvement in housing needed to be
   supported by an improvement in wider infrastructure and it was important that
   there was a cross-departmental commitment to building sustainable communities.

12. In summing up, the Deputy Prime Minister agreed that housing was a priority but
    hoped that lessons had been learnt from the past about the need for investment
    across the piece. The Select Committee had made it clear that more investment
    is needed. The Prime Minister was chairing a committee on the development of
    the Thames Gateway demonstrating the commitment of Government at the
    highest level.    Whilst the Government would provide some funding there
    remains a need to consider innovative measures to increase the amount of
    funding available. The Communities Plan Sub-Group would continue to take
    work forward on developing the plan and in its effective delivery.


ITEM 2 COMPREHENSIVE PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENTS- NEXT STEPS

13. The Minister for Local Government welcomed the focus of the papers before the
    meeting on identifying the next stages for moving forward together. The
    Government remained committed to developing the new framework for freedoms
    and flexibilities and was pressing on with the necessary follow-up work though
    the Local Government Bill through statutory instruments and grant reports to
    remove plans and ring-fencing. He added that development of the Innovations
    Forum for excellent authorities would enable discussions to develop more
    ambitious freedoms and flexibilities The Minister recognised the key role that the
    local government had to play in improving the performance of individual
    authorities but emphasised that the Government shared local government’s
    commitment . Lead officials were already in placeto take forward an improvement
    programme with “weak” local authorities. He explained that the precise split for
    the first year allocation of £40m for capacity and support had not been set.
    However, it was likely that the allocation for capacity building (including Beacons)
    was likely to be£29m with £11m for work associated with the weak authorities.
   The Minister hoped to be able to expand this programme in the future, or hoped
   that it would be done with matched funding by the LGA. Finally, he added that he
   was pleased that the intervention protocol was very close to agreement.

14. Cllr Sir Jeremy Beecham acknowledged the good progress that had been made
    and welcomed the good working relationship enjoyed by central and local
    government. The LGA were keen to ensure that the Intervention Protocol was
    agreed quickly.

15. Cllr Sir Jeremy Beecham welcomed the opportunity to develop freedoms and
    flexibilities more ambitiously through the Innovations Forum; however, the sooner
    the existing freedoms came into play the better. He suggested that it might be
    useful to exploit the experience of LPSAs. It was important that freedoms such as
    the three-year inspection holiday announced for excellent councils should not be
    undermined by any additional forms of inspection. He recognised that CPAs for
    Districts would need to be different but said it was essential that they were
    delivered in a satisfactory way.

16. Councillor Peter Chalke said that the support of the County Council’s Network for
    counties needing assistance would continue and reported that 122 council
    leaders had signed up to their improvement programme to date. He asked if there
    was an intention to extend the £18m joint fund.


17. Councillor Chris Clarke commented that greater clarity was required to overcome
    any difficulties and regulate the unfair competition arising from the limitation on
    the power to charge for services to cost recovery. The Minister for Local
    Government agreed that there was a balance to be struck related to competition
    and thought this was an issue in which more work could be done.

18. Councillor Chris Clarke also thought that there was scope for authorities to be
    able to market the broad band capabilities that were available to them to enable
    citizen access.

19. Councillor Harry Jones envisaged some form of Beacons role for the 22 excellent
    authorities. He asked what stimuli could be provided for weaker authorities
    adding that improvements in specific service areas ought to be recognised.

20. Councillor Milner Whiteman was concerned about CPA for districts and the costs
    of the exercise for districts that were smaller organisations than counties or
    unitary authorities. It was important for districts to see the benefits of the process;
    for example, would they be eligible for increased freedoms and flexibilities.

21. Councillor Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart welcomed the potential benefits to be had
    from excellent authorities working together through the Innovations Forum but
    considered that it was necessary to look wider. Cascading these freedoms to
    other authorities should be the object, particularly to councils with a proven
    record to meet targets across a range of services. He believed it was a question
    of trust. The crucial question was whether Government would be prepared to
    move on minimum standards and if that would allow authorities to achieve more
    locally. He wishes to see local authorities have a bigger role for a wider range of
    targets. Given the democratic accountability for authorities, they could play a
    wider role in joining up government at a local level.

22. Councillor Gordon Keymer believed there was a possibility of two groups
   emerging consisting of “excellent” authorities on one hand and remaining
   authorities on the other. He was concerned that lead officials would decide
   whether local authorities had the ability to improve or not. He also believed that
   there should be an ability to appeal against the Audit Commissions CPA
   classifications. He voiced concerns amongst districts that the proposed CPA
   methodology for them was still uncertain.


23. Councillor Mark Edgell said it was vital that weaker authorities had the incentive
    to improve. An appropriate structure for refreshing/updating assessments was
    required, Councillor Dame Sally Powell said it was important that activity linked
    to CPA refresh was proportionate particularly for the better performers. She
    added that the capacity of middle management in authorities was crucial. It was
    important to attract good quality graduates and to appeal to a wide range of
    potential recruits, including from the private sector.

24. Councillor Sir Jeremy Beecham reported an improvement in graduate recruitment
    rates to the local government employment sector.

25. The Minister for Local Government, summarising the discussion, said that the
    Audit Commission were approaching CPAs for districts in much the same way as
    for the upper tier. He added that some adaptation to the methodology was likely if
    the Commission was to be responsive to feedback received from the pathfinders.
    He felt it might be useful to have a stock take event similar to that held on the
    development of methodology for the upper tier authorities. The Minister agreed
    that it was vital that CPA refresh provided local authorities with the incentive to
    improve but that it was necessary to avoid the uncertainty of constant re-
    assessment. Refreshment would be an annual process but would not be a final
    reassessment. The Audit Commission would be consulting on the Refresh
    methodology in March. The right of local authorities to appeal remained a matter
    for the Audit Commission. However he stressed that it was essential to avoid
    focusing energies on changing the rules rather than the embracing the
    fundamental principle of the framework which was to improve.

26. The Minister went on to emphasise that he hoped input to capacity funding could
    be maximised through match funding where possible. The concept of the lead
    official was one that had developed through practical experience with authorities.
    Lead officials were crucial to a coherent framework for improvement planning and
    he looked forward to constructive relationships developing. Finally, he stressed
    that the Innovations Forum should work creatively on freedoms and flexibilities.

27. The Deputy Prime Minister concluded the discussion by highlighting that the aim
    was to see improvement throughout local government and that everyone had
    their role to play within that. He looked forward to a quick agreement of the
    Intervention Protocol.
ITEM 3 SHARED PRIORITIES FOR PUBLIC SERVICES

28. The Deputy Prime Minister began by saying that the shared priorities for public
    services agreed to in July 2002 was a major step forward and demonstrated the
    joint commitment to effective delivery.

29. The Minister for Local Government agreed it was important for central and local
    government to work together with other departments and partners. Now that the
    shared priorities have been agreed there is now a need to focus on particular
    steps that can be taken to improve performance in these areas and then this
    should be available to others so that good practice can be shared in a way that is
    most useful. The proposed set of pathfinder projects were based on action
    learning through workshops and exploration of issues on the ground. Each
    pathfinder would involve about six authorities, relevant Departments and relevant
    partner organisations and would focus on one of four issues that had been
    identified for an initial tranche of work. The first topic would be local environment,
    and would focus on a clean, green and safe local environment reflecting its
    importance to tackling anti-social behaviour. The second was that of health
    inequalities, and would identify specific measures that can be taken by councils,
    the health sector and other local agencies in working together to close the health
    gap. The third would look at the wider role of council services in supporting pupils
    as well as the more direct practical support provided by LEA’s. The fourth would
    look at ways of building safer and stronger communities, identifying factors and
    practical steps that had led to good performance against local targets including
    the performance of crime and disorder reduction partnerships.

30. Cllr Sir Jeremy Beecham said that the LGA very much supported the work on
    shared priorities. There were some significant interactions between the proposed
    topics, which might also need to be addressed. There were crucial roles for
    Government departments to play but it was important that Government agencies
    were also fully involved. Finally, he suggested that the development of CPA might
    also be influenced by the work on the shared priorities.

31. The Minister of State at Environment, Food and Rural Affairs stated that he was
    encouraged by the proposals and emphasised the importance of joined up
    working across Government.

32. Cllr Dame Sally Powell said educational attainment relied on a great deal more
    than on putting money into schools. For example some of the work under the
    Neighbourhood Renewal Fund and the provision of support to families to enable
    children to better schooling demonstrated the need to take a wider view.

33. Minister of State, Department of Culture, Media and Sport pointed out that the
    large proportion of his Department’s total budget was allocated to Non-
    Departmental Public Bodies and thus supported the need to engage them
    effectively in the process.
34. The Deputy Prime Minister concluded that a report back on the programme would
    be considered at July’s CLP meeting.


ITEM 4 REPORT BACK FROM THE SOCIAL INCLUSION SUB-GROUP

35. The Minister of State for Social Exclusion highlighted the great deal of positive
    co-operation with the LGA on issues vital to raising levels of social inclusion and
    neighbourhood renewal. She added that the discussions and presentations at the
    Social Inclusion Sub-Group had been very helpful. For example, after the
    presentation from Sefton MBC on funding issues, the Regional Co-ordination Unit
    went on to use Sefton as one of their three area studies in the Review of Area
    Based Initiatives. Another meeting with the LGA would be arranged shortly to
    discuss the Green Paper on Children at Risk and an update on the progress of
    the review would also be available. She thanked colleagues from across
    Government and from the LGA for their attendance and contributions.

36. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury said that he would find it helpful to have a
    meeting of the Social Inclusion Sub-Group to share emerging strands of thinking
    on the Green Paper on Children at Risk. He was clear that it was important to
    maximise the contribution that could be made by all stakeholders, for example
    and the Voluntary and Community sector needed to be part of the picture. The
    needs of children at risk needed to be met at local level so it was important that
    stakeholders worked together. In terms of educational attainment family links
    were vital and resources needed to be marshalled accordingly. Lessons could be
    learnt from SureStart and it was necessary to explore further the ways in which
    other departments could work together. The Children’s Green Paper would be an
    important component in delivering the necessary change.

37. The Parliamentary under Secretary, Lord Chancellor’s Department agreed with
    the importance of including stakeholders and also pointed out the continuing work
    on child contact centres.

38. The Minister of State, Department of Health had found it helpful to attend the
    Sub-Group and endorsed the importance of bringing together the various
    stakeholders in order to meet both local and national needs and identifying
    initiatives that work.

39. The Parliamentary under Secretary of State for Adult learning and Skills identified
    the importance of Youth Service work and the ongoing need to sustain a joined
    up approach and cross agency communication. The Deputy Prime Minister said
    that he would be happy to have a further discussion in order to determine the
    approach for the future.


ITEM 5- PROGRESS REPORT

40. The Deputy Prime Minister said that it might be useful to have a discussion or a
    further meeting about the general approach to the Settlement.
41. Councillor Dame Sally Powell asked when further details of Planning Delivery
    Grant announced by the Chancellor in his Pre Budget Report would be made
    available. Local authorities needed this to enable them to set their budgets. The
    Minister for Local Government said that he would press on the question to
    relevant colleagues.

42. Councillor Sir Jeremy Beecham asked what action may be taken following on
    from the World Summit on Sustainable Development. The Minister for EFRA
    agreed to take this forward with the Minister for Local Government.

43. Cllr Sir Jeremy Beecham asked if there were any additional pressures that
    Government could exert to make further progress on bus issues. The Minister for
    Sport and The Minister of the Department for Transport said that a further
    meeting on the Bus Partnership Forum was to be held shortly.

44. Councillor Harry Jones raised the issue of pensions for councillors in Wales
    saying that clarity was needed about whether proposed regulations would apply
    to Wales. The Minister for Local Government offered to take this up with the
    Wales Office.

45. Councillor Milner Whiteman raised concerns on the extent of access for local
    authorities to communications information as part of the first Home Office work
    on the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA). The matter would be
    brought to the attention of the Home Office along with LGA concerns on the
    Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002. This would need a separate
    meeting.

								
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