The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has produced a summary of the progress of LAAs, which suggests that they have disappointed many with their lack of progress but they have brought about important changes.
LAAs were intended to ease the burden of bureaucracy on local authorities by allowing them to pool various funding streams without undue interference from Whitehall in return for achieving targets that that were more of a stretch than would otherwise be the case.
However the report, with the snappy title LAA Research: Round two negotiations and early progress in round one, suggests that government seems to have expected immediate changes in service delivery and outcomes while local authorities expected new freedoms to spend as they saw fit with less reporting and the removal of regulatory barriers to effective action. Neither set of expectations has been met.
The report does say however, that LAAs have played a key role in focusing the attention of local partners on common goals but without much needed efficiency gains. However, it points out that many of the local partners whose funds are eligible to be pooled, are finding it difficult to see the added value that a LAA can offer. This does not help with willingness to put their funds on the table.
The situation has exacerbated the problem of higher staffing costs incurred by local authorities to establish LAAs.
The so-called fourth block of LAAs, which deals with economic development is singled out as being particularly disappointing and not yet living up to government expectations despite being popular in localities.
The report suggests that there is a need for more demonstrable “wins” in relation to the reduction in the burden of reporting to central government to demonstrate the true potential of LAAs to change service delivery.
ECONOMIC PARTNERHSIP COMMENT
When the new regional director of the Government Office of the South East (GOSE) – Rolande Anderson – visited Brighton on a fact-finding mission earlier in the year she pointed out that LAAs were “very young” and had to be given time to become established and prove themselves.
The frustration for those involved with LAAs at local authority level has been that not all government departments have signed up to the concept and consequently some funds could not be “pooled” as was originally envisaged. The report recognises this as a problem saying; "it is clear that parts of central government remain sceptical, and concerned about the potential impact (LAAs) may have on the delivery of their own departmental objectives".
Also as an instrument of service delivery (and change) they have to be negotiated with the various regional government offices and some have suggested that too many of the requested freedoms do not materialise which is disappointing for those involved on the ground. On the other hand it is certainly true that some LAAs have been very unadventurous in their ambitions, which must be equally disappointing for those in the government offices.
The new local government white paper (see earlier story in knowledgebase)strengthens the position of LAAs and makes it clear that they are here to stay. Under these circumstances it is incumbent on each party involved in their creation to make sure they see the other side’s point of view and the net benefit that LAAs could bring if everyone played the game.
For a copy of the report click on the link below
For a copy of brighton & Hove's LAA click on the link below
Read related items on:
Local Area Agreement
Brighton & Hove City Council
Department for Communities and Local Government
Government Office for the South East