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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Executive held on 07/02/2006
Local Strategic Partnerships : Shaping Their Future - A Consultation Paper

Local Strategic Partnerships: Shaping their future
A Consultation Paper

Key Questions

Chapter 1
The role of Local Strategic Partnerships and Sustainable Community Strategies

LSPs, Sustainable Community Strategies and LAAs

1: Do you agree that the key role of the LSP should be to develop the vision for the local area, through the Sustainable Community Strategy and the 'delivery contract' through the LAA (as set out in figures 1 & 2)
Community planning should result in the setting out of a Community Vision based on area wide engagement and achieved through consensus – a long term aspiration for the area that has at its core the improvement of quality of life through addressing issues associated with economic, social and environmental well-being.

The change in terminology to include “sustainable” is of limited benefit. The proposal for the definition of sustainable communities will potentially lead to a “tick box” exercise. The definition of “communities” needs to be clear. It can be defined by its geography, interest or activity. It will be better for an area to define its own communities and set out a vision for the region that reflects these.

The vision needs to be explicitly grounded in an analysis of the local area needs.

It is unlikely that every aspiration will need to be addressed through an LAA programme – an LAA only includes programmes that require government involvement. The vision for an area should certainly be in the context of LAAs and any other partnership programmes of work in that area.

It is not appropriate for the LAA delivery plan to be the same as a community strategy action plan – it should be a sub-set of it.

Regional/sub-regional engagement

2: We believe it is important that LSPs reflect regional/sub-regional plans where relevant in their Sustainable Community Strategy priorities and that regional organisations and partnerships take account of key local needs. How can this greater co-ordination best be facilitated?
Agree that the regional strategies such as the Regional Economic Strategy and regional sustainable development framework should be better integrated with the community planning process. Currently the quality and extent of dialogue is varied, and timetables for review and refresh are disconnected. Government Offices could act as a valuable agent in helping to improve this situation on a local/ regional basis.

Links to local plans

3: Would a requirement on bodies producing theme or service-based plans to ‘have regard’ to the Sustainable Community Strategy in doing so and vice versa, increase the LSP's ability to take the over-arching view in an area?
Broadly agree with this proposal but account should be taken of the independence of democratically elected organisations within an area covered by an LSP. This is especially true in 3 tier authorities.

Sustainable Community Strategies

4: Are the proposed steps in the development of a Sustainable Community Strategy correct? (See box on page 18)
Base line in current performance: The management analysis of data to inform partnership working is critical to community planning. In particular, it should include socio-demographic data, environmental data, means and performance data as well as qualitative data relating to citizens and stakeholders needs, attitudes and behaviours. There will need to be government initiatives to aid sharing of meaningful and useful data.

Any baselines where data is new, and map trends and trajectories where data has been available for a while should be set out in documents that explain an area’s approach to community planning.

The proposal for disaggregation of data is, however, resource intensive.

Analysis of performance and local conditions: The proposal that any vision needs to be explicitly grounded in an analysis of the area’s needs detracts from the aspirations of an area determined through engagement with citizens and stakeholders. Any vision should encompass both.

It is agreed that any vision should link closely with Local Development Frameworks and this will be easier done as Local Development Frameworks mature and visions are refreshed.

Forecasting: The vision for any given area should set out the aspirations for the area that improves quality of life by addressing economic, social and environmental well being. This should also include the third tier for government expressed through parish action plans and similar exercise conducted at neighbourhood level. There needs to be better integration of these aspirations through district/ unitary and regional areas. Strategies at these different geographic levels should aim to accommodate these relationships and plans should set out the way in which these strategies are implemented. The timescales of such plans should not be prescribed as they will need to reflect local circumstances and capacity. Government assistance would be welcome in aligning the times at which local, regional and national strategies/ plans are required to be submitted/ reviewed.

The government’s expressed ambition to reduce strategies and plans is welcomed.

Local Area Agreements: Unlike an LAA review timetable which is refreshed on an annual basis and reviewed every few years a community strategy timetable should be broken down into three key areas and the sub sets of this long term vision should be refreshed/ reviewed on a longer timescale unless an areas circumstances change.

Strategies to achieve vision should be regularly reviewed on the basis of testing the vision against the regional, national and global context.

Revised Action Plans: Action plans should be refreshed on an annual basis to respond to both local and government milestones.

Sustainable Community Strategy/ LAA Action Plan: This assertion seems to imply that the LAA and Community Action Plan will be the same. We do not support this assertion but do agree that the Community Action Plan should set out the criteria above. Indeed this follows good programme/ project and performance management principles that should be a feature of community planning and partnership working. We also agree that other partnership action plans should reflect the aspirations set out in the vision (as well as responding to regional and national aspirations). The community action plan should only set out specific additional programmes of work that the strategic partnership commissions to add value to these existing plans towards the goal of improving quality of life through addressing social, economic and environmental well-being. This will include government supported mechanisms such as LAAs.

As to review of strategy, different to LAA, suggest:
long-term vision every 5 years
strategies to achieve vision – 3 years
action plan –yearly.
5: What more could be done to ensure Sustainable Community Strategies are better able to make the links between social, economic and environmental goals and to deal more effectively with the area’s cross-boundary and longer-term impacts?
LSPs already take account of this through the monitoring of Quality of Life indicators.

Neighbourhood Engagement

6: What should be the role of the LSP in supporting neighbourhood engagement and ensuring the neighbourhood/parish voice, including diverse and minority communities, is heard at the principal local level?
The LSP should act as a focal point for coordinating engagement and working with communities to improve community, voluntary and other stakeholder engagement. Within this process different individual organisations on or linked to the LSP will undertake responsibilities to support communities.
7: In two-tier areas, is it most appropriate for the responsibility for neighbourhood engagement to rest with the district level LSP?
What about three-tier local government? Organisations will already have specific undertakings, some statutory, to engage with communities, therefore the focus should be on how to best engage with communities. This will be better achieved by LSPs coordinating and developing consultation and:
Working with and supporting all communities to increase their capacity to engage
Seeking to avoid duplication in engagement
Sharing the results of engagement with partners where appropriate
Joining up engagement activities

Links with Local Development Framework

8: How can spatial planning teams best contribute to Sustainable Community Strategies through the LSP and ensure that LDFs and Sustainable Community Strategies are closely linked?
This depends on the structure of a local authority. The LDF process is currently very prescribed requiring activities that might be better integrated with community planning over time.

Important that the person responsible for LDF / planning policy sits on the LSP group.
9: How could revised guidance and accompanying support materials best ensure that Sustainable Community Strategies and Local Development Frameworks join up effectively?
Reduction in guidance – keep it simple.

Better focus on sharing good practice.

Two-tier areas

10: Should every local authority area have its own LSP?
This should be a matter for authorities in a region/ area to determine. The LSP should cover the boundaries common to all partners.

To be effective the LSP needs adequate resources. For smaller/ medium district councils the LSP can be a ‘burden’.
11: Would the establishment of a greater delineation of roles between county and district LSPs as suggested be sensible? (See paras 65 to 69)
Yes. Strongly advocate the “added value” model. LSP should seek to integrate the development of parish and town action plans.

Chapter 2:
Governance of the LSP

LSP as the partnership of partnerships

12: We believe that it is important that the LSP is made up of the thematic partnerships in the area together with an LSP board. What is your view?
In theory, it could lead to more effective delivery. However, there are major concerns about democratic accountability which will need to be managed.

Build on work with existing partnerships.

We support the proposal for LSP Boards that should focus on the delivery of partnership programmes of work which add value to that of existing partnerships. Such Boards should adopt sound programme, project and performance management principles.
13: We believe that a rationalisation of local partnerships would help the LSP executive take an effective overview. Would clustering partnerships around the four LAA blocks be a sensible way to achieve this?
We strongly support the proposal that LSPs should be the focus for rationalisation of partnerships and that this would enable an LSP and any Executive Boards the opportunity to take an effective overview.

Such rationalisation should not however be clustered around the LAA blocks. These blocks serve to administer pooled funding arrangements in an LAA and do not in themselves represent any intrinsic logic related to community planning. The LAA is also unlikely to be the only mechanism that many strategic partnerships will adopt to deliver the aspirations set out in the vision.
14: We believe that the geographic boundaries of partners within LSPs is important. What do you see as the opportunities for, and barriers to, co-terminosity shared geographic boundaries?
We agree that co-terminosity is a considerable factor in partnership working at all levels. The inevitability of local government reorganisation means that strategic partnerships including LSPs should be able to be flexible to respond to such changes over time.
15: Within the LSP framework and its established priorities, would the creation of single delivery vehicles to tackle particular issues be helpful?
Yes. However with the diversity of partners and the Gershon agenda for several of these partners, whilst being helpful may be extremely difficult to achieve.

A creation of single delivery vehicles could mark a move away from partnership working and could see the creation of an extra layer of unnecessary bureaucracy when aligned funding arrangements would have secured the desired outcomes.

Ensuring wide representation

16: How can the neighbourhood and parish tiers be involved most effectively on the LSP on a) the executive and b) individual thematic partnerships?
It is important that neighbourhood and parish tiers are actively involved in community planning where appropriate. This can also be achieved through health checks and parish plans.

Membership of the Executive and thematic partnerships should be determined locally through clear governance and membership arrangements. It would however be inappropriate to prescribe such arrangements.
17: How can the private, voluntary and community sectors be involved most effectively on the LSP as a) the executive and b) individual thematic partnerships?
See 16 above.

Providing a legislative foundation

18: Would a duty to co-operate with the local authority, in producing and implementing the Community Strategy, help to set LSPs on a firmer footing and better enable their enhanced delivery co-ordination role?
It could encourage input and help resourcing. However, could work against effective partnership working if forced. One of the primary factors of effective partnership working is that members are willingly and actively involved because they can see the benefits to their organisations and the communities they serve.

Our response to question 23 we believe would be constructive in improving the active and positive engagement of partners.
19: If so, what obligations, such as attendance, financial or staff support, would be useful to place on partners?
We believe that prescription would be unhelpful although there may be other mechanisms to encourage partners to commit resources in a particular area.
20: If so, which public sector agencies would the duty be most sensibly placed on?
It would not be appropriate to identify particular agencies as this would depend upon local circumstances and agreed governance and membership arrangements.
21: Should there be a statutory duty on local authorities and named partners to promote the engagement of the voluntary and community sectors in the LSP?
Any focus should be on the outcomes of effective engagement with stakeholders rather than putting a specific duty on particular agencies.

Chapter 3: Accountability
Accountability of the local authority and between partners

Accountability of Partners

22: Should each partnership be encouraged to produce protocols or ‘partnership agreements’ between partners to ensure clear lines of accountability for the delivery of agreed outcomes?
We support the proposal that strategic partnerships should clearly set out governance and membership arrangements.
23: We believe that if partnership working was included as part of other key agencies’ assessments it would be effective in securing greater commitment from other public sector agencies. What are your views?
We support this proposal in preference to those set out in 18,19 and 20.

Involvement of local councillors

24: What do you see as the key role for executive councillors within LSPs?
The role will depend on locally agreed governance arrangements. More broadly executive councillors offer leadership, encouragement and facilitation to partnership working.
25: What do you see as the appropriate role for backbenchers particularly in ensuring a high quality of local engagement?
Roles will need to be developed according to local circumstances. Backbenchers need to be proactive and be local advocates however, the role of members of other organisations governing bodies such as Boards or Trustees is also important.
26: What would make councillors' powers of overview and scrutiny more effective in scrutinizing the 4 blocks of the LAA?
Whilst we do not support the view that the four blocks of the LAA should act as a template for the structures and activities of an LSP there may be potential to develop a scrutiny role. Such activity would need to include representatives from other governing bodies of partnership organisations.

Possibly creating a layer of bureaucracy which leads to issues of resource and capacity. It will depend on the structure of an LSP. More appropriately, depending on the structure of an LSP in an area, if delivery is overseen by a core executive then it is the broader LSP membership which should monitor and inform the work of the LSP Executive.

Involvement of Members of Parliament

27: What would be the most appropriate way for a Member of Parliament to be involved with the LSP and how can we ensure that it is complementary to the role of local councillors?
Involvement of MPs should be determined at a local level. It is unlikely given time restraints on MPs that they would be able to make regular commitment to the work of an LSP. MPs should, however, be generally kept informed of LSPs activities and invited to attend key meetings/ events.

Involvement of Communities Served

28: How can we promote effective community engagement and involvement, from all sections of the community in shaping local priorities and public services?
Please see earlier responses on community engagement and involvement.
29: How can we maximise the opportunities for joint policy and joint activity on community engagement, including the LDF, the LAA and the Sustainable Community Strategy?
Please see earlier responses (7 and 16-21).

By government pump priming to ensure the success of joint initiatives.

Creation of ‘full time’ LSP policy unit made up of staff from each partner.
30: How can accountability to local people and businesses be enhanced?
Simplifying processes.

Continuing to disseminate information in partnership using new technology.

Chapter 4:
Capacity Issues - The skills needed by LSPs

31: What are your LSP’s key support/skill gaps?
In our view the biggest challenge to an LSP is the ability to manage, analyse and interpret a wide range of data from different sources to inform the development of partnership programmes of work.

For many LSPs, officer support functions are often combined with other key organisational functions leading to pressures on time and resources.
32: What extra or different support would be most helpful in shifting to a more delivery focused role?
Provision of support covering sound programme, project and performance management tools and techniques.

Funding for government initiatives in an area where 56% of local expenditure comes directly from council tax payers as opposed to a national average of 32%.
33: How would LSPs prefer to receive information and support; through guidance, toolkits, sign-posting to existing information, practical learning opportunities etc?
Share best practice.

Practical learning events such as Beacon Council open days.

Action learning sets. Practical tools (IT)
34: How can LSPs ensure that adequate learning and support provision is available to build the capacity of communities to engage with the LSP and its partners at the various levels?
Ensure sufficient funding and resourcing to enable LSPs to access centres of excellence etc.

Time, money, staff.
35: What learning or development do you feel is required by LSPs in order to delivery sustainable communities that embody the principles of sustainable development at the local level?
Individuals representing organisations and communities on LSPs have a wide range of skills and expertise. The key challenge is to draw upon these and make best use of them in developing LSPs programmes of work.