An overview of new Local Area Agreements (LAAs)
Local Area Agreements are about what sort of place you want to live in. They are about setting the strategic direction and focusing on the priorities that will make your town, city or community a better place to be. They are about place-shaping. LAAs will continue to be three-year agreements with priorities agreed between all the main public sector agencies working in the area and with central Government. This will mean everyone working together to have the right evidence to know what these priorities are. But these should not just be decided between public sector agencies. Everyone should have the opportunity to say what matter most to them. A good LAA should ensure there are the systems in place to be sure that what everyone agrees should happen does. The major changes are being made in 2008 with the remaining architecture of the new performance framework in place by 2009. This will mean:
more emphasis on area based service delivery - a package of measures which mean stronger partnership working, alignment of local government performance management arrangements with that of partner agencies and replacement of authority-based inspection with an area-based assessment of risks to service delivery (The Comprehensive Area Assessment);
more freedom in spending decisions - the local authority will be able to make decisions about spending priorities with partners locally without these being conditioned by centrally imposed targets. Budget 07 reinforced the commitments in the Local Government White Paper 'Strong and Prosperous Communities' to reduce the number of specific grants. The presumption will be against ringfencing grants unless there are strong reasons for doing so and these will be made public.
fewer central targets and reporting systems - the new LAAs are part of radical reforms to replace the multiple national performance frameworks under which local authorities operate with around 200 national indicators. These will cover everything local government does on its own or in partnership with others. Each LAA will have no more than 35 negotiated (designated) alongside 18 statutory education and early years targets. There will be a single annual performance review to examine the findings of the Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA) and respond to changing priorities in the area;
In addition the passage of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Bill will place a statutory requirement on the local authority to develop an LAA and duties on named partners to co-operate with the authority. Councils will also be able to agree local targets with partners that will not need to be reported to central government but which will have the same status as targets negotiated with central government.