Whitehall indecision stalling councils' regeneration plans

Published on Friday, 11 November 2011 09:44
Posted by Scott Buckler

The Government yesterday received dozens of submissions from councils to take part in the next round of community budgets.  However, Whitehall currently only has plans to allow four councils to take part

The Local Government Association believes that this represents a great opportunity to genuinely allow councils to regenerate their communities, and is pushing the Government to set councils free.

Currently attempts to provide better services and value for money for taxpayers are hindered by Whitehall departments.  Too often decisions are made hundreds of miles from the local areas they affect, without consideration for the role of other parts of the public sector.  Community budgets can turn this model on its head.

There is a strong demand from local authorities to develop community budgets on a wide range of issues, including helping disadvantaged areas.  Indeed, these calls for greater local decision making over regeneration were backed just last week by the Communities and Local Government Committee in Parliament.

The Committee issued a report arguing that much more could be done to boost regeneration in communities, calling on the Government to "maximise the contribution of Community Budgets to regeneration and lead the way with a joined up approach at national level".

Early pilots of community budgets to help families with challenging needs have proved very effective and this approach could be replicated for a host of other policies.  Not only were substantial savings found in these pilots, but the levels of service on offer to families improved significantly too.

The use of community budgets represents one part of a wider strategy by councils to boost regeneration efforts across the country, with further plans due to be announced shortly.

Cllr Sir Merrick Cockell, Chairman of the LGA commented:

"Whilst the Government's extension of community budgets is positive, given the enthusiasm from councils, they should look to expand this programme to meet demand.

"Councils understand the needs of their communities and are best placed to run local services, provide value for money and boost regeneration efforts.

"As the most trusted and efficient part of the public sector, it is right that councils are given the tools to tackle deprivation in the country's most disadvantaged areas.

"The LGA is pressing Whitehall to allow councils keen to take up whole place budgets the ability to do so.  Councils have the local knowledge to transform communities and lead regeneration right across the country".


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