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ARM'S LENGTH AGENCY PLANNED TO DEAL WITH FAILURES

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The arm's length training agency formed from the split of the Local Government Management Board will intervene in f...
The arm's length training agency formed from the split of the Local Government Management Board will intervene in failing councils, according to plans by Local Government Association officers.

A paper from an LGA Labour members' awayday, leaked to LGC, says leading members want an 'arm's length organisation or standards board with other partners' to help failing councils.

Officers' comments to the meeting, listed in the paper, include: 'This would prevent the 'exposure' to the general community that local authorities feared . . . the danger would be a host of inspectorates that would look only at a section of local authorities' work and not at the overall picture.'

LGA members at their conference next week will vote on a motion from Warwickshire Council's Association for the LGA and LGMB to help failing councils.

The motion proposes that 'local government, through the LGA and LGMB, give non-financial assistance to local authorities identified by civil servants as failing and subject to likely interference/intervention, for example from the local government rapid response unit'.

But an amendment will be debated to change the proposal to establish a 'new, politically neutral body, operating at arm's length from the LGA' which would promote self-assessment, provide support and advice and encourage development and training.

The plans would both help to shield councils from the Audit Commission, which it is feared could take on a prescriptive sanctioning role under government proposals, and would give the LGA a central role in driving the government's modernisation.

The government has been pressing the LGA to take a lead on dealing with failing councils.

LGMB chief executive Judith Hunt welcomed the plan, saying bringing in people with local government experience to help poor performers was more effective than 'externally imposed hit squads'.

The commission's main interest was finance, but 'turning around an organisation needs lots of different levers', she said.

The proposals could see management teams from one council going in to work with teams at failing councils.

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