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BEACON COUNCIL THEMES ANNOUNCED

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Local government minister Nick Raynsford today challenged councils to ...
Local government minister Nick Raynsford today challenged councils to

demonstrate excellence in ten new theme areas, as he announced

arrangements for round four of the beacon council scheme. The

announcement also included advance notice of themes for rounds five

and six of the scheme. This is the first time the announcement has

covered several rounds, as the scheme moves to a longer-term, rolling

programme.

The publication of themes for rounds four, five and six of the beacon

council scheme coincides with the announcement of the 46 councils

awarded beacon status in round three.

The beacon council scheme identifies centres of excellence in local

government from which other councils can learn. Each year, ministers

from across government select themes in service areas that have a

direct impact on the quality of life of local communities. Councils

are invited to apply, either individually, or in partnership with

other councils, where they can demonstrate that an excellent service

is being provided.

Announcing the programme of themes for rounds four, five and a

selection for round six, Mr Raynsford said: 'The beacon council

scheme is all about driving up the standard of council services for

everyone. As we said in our White Paper Strong Local Leadership -

Quality Public Services, announcing a forward programme of themes

will enable councils to plan ahead and make the most of the learning

opportunities provided by the scheme.

'We have had a tremendous response to the beacon scheme. Over the

last three rounds, we have received 572 applications and have made

128 beacon awards. The scheme provides well-deserved national

recognition for front-line staff delivering vital council services,

from caring for children and maintaining a quality environment to

fostering business growth.

'We have chosen these themes following advice from the independent

advisory panel based on wide-ranging consultation with councils and

others interested in delivering excellent local services. The themes

reflect the role councils play in improving and maintaining the

quality of life for people everywhere. They provide an opportunity

for councils, regardless of their size or location, to demonstrate

excellence'

The beacon council scheme aims to improve public services which are

central to people's day to day lives by sharing good practice. The

Round Four themes cover a broad range of issues:

- Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services

- Community Cohesion

- Quality of the Built Environment

- Removing Barriers to Work

- Rethinking Construction

- Social Inclusion through ICT

- Street and Highway Works

- Supporting the Rural Economy

- Tackling Homelessness

- Transforming Secondary Education

The application brochure for round four of the beacon council scheme

will be published in July 2002. Councils will be invited to submit

applications by October 2002. The successful councils will be

announced in April next year.

Notes

1. The beacon council scheme was established in 1999 by the

government to select a number of councils to act as pace setters and

centres of excellence. The government has appointed an independent

advisory panel to make recommendations to ministers on the themes,

selection criteria and the selection of beacon councils in each

round.

2. The Report of the Advisory Panel on Beacon Councils:

Recommendations to Ministers on Themes for Rounds Four, Five and Six

is available on the DTLR website.

3. This marks the start of announcements of a rolling programme of

beacon themes. The remaining themes for round six and themes for

round seven will be announced next year.

4. Applications for round four of the scheme will be invited in July

2002. Specialist panel members for each of the round four beacon

themes will shortly be appointed to the advisory panel on beacon

councils. The panel will then make recommendations to ministers on

criteria for beacon status under each of the themes. Ministers will

make a final selection of beacon councils based on the advice of the

Panel.

5. Ministers have considered the recommendations of the advisory

panel on themes for rounds four, five and six.

6. Ministers decided to modify four of the panel's proposed themes.

They decided that the panel's proposal for a theme on supporting

teachers should have a broader focus on transforming the school

workforce and that the theme on delivering projects should be focused

specifically on rethinking construction. For round four, ministers

agreed that a theme on community cohesion should be included to draw

councils attention to this important area (in place of the panel's

suggested theme on anti-social behaviour) and a theme on transforming

secondary education should be included to support a key government

priority (in place of the panel's suggested theme on adult and

community learning).

7. Ministers also decided to include additional themes on supporting

people, promoting sustainable tourism and supporting social care

workers, which link in with government's priorities, and to repeat

the theme on promoting racial equality in round six in view of the

legislative and other changes taking place across the range of

council services.

ANNEX A - Beacon Council themes

Round Four

- Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services

- Community Cohesion

- Quality of the Built Environment

- Removing Barriers to Work

- Rethinking Construction

- Social Inclusion through ICT

- Street and Highway Works

- Supporting the Rural Economy

- Tackling Homelessness

Round Five

- Benefits Administration

- Better Local Public Transport

- Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships

- Early Years

- Housing Renewal

- Services for Older People

- Supporting People

- Transforming the School Workforce

- Promoting Sustainable Tourism

- Supporting Social Care Workers

Round Six

- Asset Management

- Effective Environmental Health

- Getting Closer to Communities

- Healthy Communities

- Supporting Carers

- Supporting New Business

- Promoting Racial Equality

Annex B - Descriptions of Beacon Council themes

Round Four

Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)

This is a cross-cutting service theme and will identify effective

joint working across social services, health and education. It is

also a commitment in our NHS Plan to address early intervention

issues. The Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMH) Beacons would

demonstrate the importance we attach to the services provided by

social care and education as well as health. The Department of Health

is currently developing a National Service Framework for Children's

Services and CAMH will form an important part of the framework. The

Beacons identified using best practice in multi-agency working will

influence the CAMHS module.

Community Cohesion

As democratically elected organisations local authorities are in key

positions to provide strong leadership for their areas and their

communities. One area where strong leadership, combined with

effective partnership working, is increasingly important is community

cohesion. A cohesive society is one that shares common values and in

which everybody feels that they have a full stake and that they are a

full citizen.

In a broad sense community cohesion can be seen as about tackling

barriers to greater social-interaction and dialogue between

communities. Cohesive communities are communities that function

effectively, and are perceived to function effectively. They can be

seen as ones which have: a common vision and sense of belonging for

all people; a recognition and appreciation of peoples' different

circumstances and backgrounds and effective processes and procedures

through which difficulties or problems, if they do arise, can be

dealt with.

Quality of the Built Environment

Both the Urban Task Force report and the Government's Urban White

Paper highlighted the role of local authorities in creating

sustainable, safe and attractive urban areas. The inclusion of a

Beacon theme on the quality of the urban environment will mark the

achievements of councils in making better places, both through the

policies they take forward and the building projects they procure,

and signal the benefits of improving urban design skills. .

Urban design has been described as the process of shaping the setting

for life in cities, towns and villages. There is now a wide

understanding that making places socially, environmentally and

economically successful depends on high standards of urban design.

What is less well understood is how design quality can be measured -

and delivered. The identification of beacon councils, who have

attained a recognisably high standard of design in their areas,

underpinned by a commitment to excellence in the construction works

they procure, appropriate planning policies and effective use of

consultation and partnership working, will provide important

exemplars of what can be achieved.

Removing Barriers to Work For most unemployed people the flexibility

and personal advice offered from programmes such as New Deal are

sufficient to help them to take steps forward towards employment. As

the New Deal succeeds in getting large numbers of people into jobs,

more effort is being spent on those facing the greatest barriers to

work. The Government is focusing on increasing the employment rates

of disadvantaged groups and areas and reducing the difference between

their employment rate and the overall rate.

Local authorities have an important part to play in helping to

improve employment rates. They are involved in strategic planning,

are major employers in their own right, and are often work with other

partners on a range of initiatives to tackle the problems of

worklessness, disadvantage and poverty within their boundaries. One

of the six commitments given by the Local Government Association is

to 'help the hardest to reach into work'.

Through Local Public Service Agreements, Local Strategic

Partnerships, Single Regeneration Budget, European Social Fund and

their own funded initiatives, local authorities will have developed

their own approaches to removing barriers to work for the most

disadvantaged. Beacon Council status will provide the opportunity for

councils to share their good practice.

Rethinking Construction

Rethinking Construction aims to improve the performance of the

construction industry and among public and private sector client. The

initiative, recently extended until April 2004, demonstrates the

business case for change and provides a practical means by which

companies can improve their productivity and competitiveness. It has

shown that clients can obtain much better value for money from their

investment, especially in whole life terms. By involving the supply

chain in projects at an early stage, buildings can be delivered on

time, on budget and defect-free that meet the needs of clients and

users.

The Strategic Forum for the Construction Industry has made excellent

progress broadening the adoption of Rethinking Construction across

the industry. Representing all key sectors of the industry, including

Trade Unions, it focuses on three priorities for delivering process

improvement and Value for Money; Client leadership; Integrated supply

teams; People issues.

Guidance notes produced by the Office of Government Commerce reaffirm

the need for local authorities to have transparent, open, and fair

procurement processes, with clear procurement strategies, procedures,

and written policies for evaluating tenders.

The Local Government Task Force has extensively promoted the

Rethinking Construction Agenda within local authorities, encouraging

them to reconsider their construction procurement strategies and

assess construction projects against quality standards, whole-life

costs and Best Value. Their Rethinking Construction Implementation

Toolkit, offering local authorities advice on the benefits of

implementation and how this can be achieved, has been well received

by Local Authorities throughout the country.

Social Inclusion through ICT Information and Communication

Technologies (ICTs) are becoming increasingly pervasive. Every day

more and more services like banking, travel, training and job seeking

are delivered online. The Information Age is changing how we work,

learn, spend leisure time and interact with one another. There is

continued strong long-term growth in Internet penetration with 39% of

households currently connected to the Internet and 53% of UK adults

having access to the Internet at home, at work, or at a public access

point. However, there remains a digital divide, which particularly

affects people living in deprived neighbourhoods.

The barriers that inhibit access to new technologies and the benefits

they can bring include poor skills, low confidence, unattractive

content and cost. The Beacon scheme is looking to identify Local

Authorities that are working to close the digital divide and to

expand access to and take up of local services online. Local

Authorities have a key role in creating a digitally inclusive

society. The kinds of approaches the Beacon scheme is looking to

identify include raising awareness of the opportunities that ICTs can

provide, providing public access to ICTs, providing advice and skills

support to local people, ensuring online content and services are

developed in a way relevant to local needs, and instilling a sense of

community involvement and ownership.

Street and Highway Works

Works carried out by utility companies (street works) are a highly

visible cause of disruption and inconvenience to all road users.

Equally disruptive can be works carried out by local authorities and

the Highways Agency to maintain and repair the highway. Local

authorities have direct control over their own works, but they also

have a duty to co-ordinate street works with utility companies to

minimise disruption.

Working in partnership with utilities and contractors local

authorities need to balance the potentially conflicting interests of

road users and frontagers with the legitimate need for utilities to

have access to their equipment from time to time. They have a key

role to ensure safety, minimise inconvenience to people using the

street, including people with disabilities and to protect the

structure of the street and apparatus in it. The motorists and

pedestrians who suffer disruption as a result of works of all kinds

in the street are often the same people who benefit from and depend

on the essential services provided by utility companies.

Supporting the Rural Economy Rural areas have been affected by a

range of upheavals in recent years; Common Agricultural Policy

changes, productivity growth and the shift from production to

consumption-oriented economies, changing consumer demands, and the

outbreak of Foot and Mouth and BSE have all contributed to the

pressures faced by rural areas. Local Authorities have a role to

play in minimising the impacts of these changes on the rural economy.

By working with both farming and non-farming communities to identify

diversified business opportunities such as in recreation, tourism and

agri-business, councils should be able both to assist the transition

to more modern and adaptable farming and to encourage diversification

of income generation generally. In doing this, local authorities

have a role in ensuring that a proper balance is struck between

economic development and protection of the environment. Residents of

rural areas also suffer from various forms of social exclusion due to

a decline in a wide range of services. Making use of innovative

transport modes, ICT and other new forms of service delivery, local

authorities can help combat this decline and its effects.

Tackling Homelessness Local housing authorities have a key role to

play in providing support and housing for people who are homeless, or

threatened with homelessness. The Homelessness Act 2002

significantly strengthens the protection which local authorities must

provide for homeless people and requires authorities to conduct

homelessness reviews and develop homelessness strategies for their

districts. In March, the Government set out a new approach to

tackling homelessness, which focuses as much on people and the

problems they face as on the places they live. Local authorities

will be major players in the delivery of this new approach, and the

Beacon scheme will help to identify good practice and drive up

standards of excellence in this important area.

Transforming Secondary Education

The White Paper - 'Schools: Achieving Success' - published in

September 2001 - sets out a significant agenda for the transformation

of secondary education. It sets a vision for the years ahead,

building on success at primary level. There are three main themes to

the White Paper:

- Greater diversity and flexibility to create a more diverse

system where every school is able to develop a distinct mission and

ethos, where necessary with support from the DfES, and in

partnership with other schools. The government will increase the

number of beacon schools.

- Delivering high minimum standards throughout the education

service - through the Key Stage 3 strategy aimed at raising

standards for 11-14 year olds: meeting the needs of all children

through targeted programmes; a more flexible 14-19 phase; and

tackling school failure. The Government wants the widest set of

tools to tackle failure and will build on lessons learned by LEAs.

- Supporting teachers and other professionals to deliver change -

developing new methods of working, in partnership with teachers,

reducing unnecessary burdens and providing ways for schools to lead

and innovate.

Round Five

Benefits Administration

Effective and efficient administration of housing and council tax

benefit is a core task for councils and one which affects the quality

of many people's lives. The theme will concentrate on the work

councils have done in partnership with local agencies and other

organisations, which helps people meet their housing needs and also

supports those moving into work or in between jobs.

Better Local Public Transport Good quality local public transport can

help improve quality of life. In both urban and rural areas, people

want public transport that is reliable, convenient, safe, affordable,

and accessible. The growth of good Quality Partnerships between bus

operators and local authorities offers clear gains for everyone.

Whilst there are some good examples across the country, more needs to

be done to ensure the delivery of quality public transport that meets

local needs and offers an attractive choice for the travelling

public. We also need to see new and imaginative public transport

solutions being developed that can help to improve accessibility to

work, learning, healthcare and other key facilities. For example,

this might include measures ranging from flexible local schemes in

rural and other less accessible areas to modern rapid transit systems

in our larger urban areas.

In partnership with transport operators and community groups, as well

as others in the public and private sectors, local authorities have a

key role in planning and co-ordinating action to improve local public

transport. They are also responsible for local transport

infrastructure, which can help in delivering quality transport

services. In many cases they facilitate action by others, though in

some circumstances may provide the public transport services

themselves.

Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships The Crime and Disorder Act

1998 placed a new duty on local authorities and the police, in close

co-operation with other agencies and local organisations to formulate

and implement a crime and disorder strategy for their area. The Act

placed a legal obligation upon parish and community councils, police

authorities, the probation service, health authorities, governing

bodies of schools and institutions of further education to co-

operate fully in this work. It also required the Partnership to

invite a wide range of public and private sector bodies, community

and representative groups to participate.

The Act details a three-year process, which should be followed by the

Partnerships. They are to undertake an audit of crime and disorder

in their area, to establish the actuality of the problems experienced

by the community; liase widely with the community on the results of

the audit, to verify that it has identified the real problems that

people have; and then develop and implement a strategy, prioritising

the problems identified, and designing measures to tackle the

priority problems.

Early Years

Early years provision and childcare play a significant role in

delivering the Government's overall aims to increase opportunity for

all, to build responsible and secure communities, and to raise

productivity and sustainable growth. Childcare unlocks the

opportunity of employment and training for parents, which in turn

helps reduce child poverty. High quality childcare and early years

education also help ensure that children get the best possible start

in life, which brings long term personal, social and economic

benefits. Government has set goals to create new childcare places,

with a particular emphasis on disadvantaged areas, to introduce

universal nursery education for three year-olds, and to ensure that

early years settings are of high quality. Councils, with their Early

Years Development and Childcare Partnerships, will have the

opportunity to demonstrate their contribution to these important

goals.

Housing Renewal

Poor housing, regardless of tenure, can have a major impact on the

health of the occupants and on the quality of life in an area.

Councils have a key role to play in developing and implementing a

comprehensive and well-targeted renewal strategy for housing in the

private sector. This should be fully integrated with their overall

housing strategy and should demonstrate clear links to local

planning, health and regeneration agendas. The Government is giving

councils new powers to develop these housing renewal strategies,

including greater discretion and flexibility to design policies to

address local problems and priorities. A Regulatory Reform Order,

currently being considered by Parliament, will give effect to these

changes by this summer. Using these new powers, local authorities

will be able to offer loans and equity release schemes as well as

grants to homeowners for the repair or improvement of their

properties.

Services for Older People

The most effective way to deliver local services to older people is

through a combination of different methods that are joined-up and

integrated with co-operative relationships across the different

organisations that already provide services to pensioners.

The Pension Service, local councils, the NHS and a variety of

voluntary and independent sector organisations have a joint agenda

aimed at alleviating pensioner poverty, providing high quality,

person centred services for older people and promoting security and

independence in retirement. For example the Pension Service and

councils recognise that increased benefit take-up is a key to

alleviating pensioner poverty and that the development of local

partnerships are an efficient mechanism to provide advice and

information to older people. The expertise and experience of staff in

local councils and their partner organisations means that they are

well placed to work together to provide services which are integrated

and responsive to older people and their carers, and take forward

joint initiatives which deliver real benefits for local older people.

Greater partnership working plays a crucial role in reaching those

most socially excluded in our communities, ensuring that pensioner

poverty is reduced and older people receive services which enable

them to remain independent and included members of their local

community.

Closer working through Local Strategic Partnerships and Public

Service Agreements is instrumental in developing a dynamic change to

the way services are delivered to older people and is making a real

improvement in the quality of services.

Supporting People

Supporting People will launch in 2003. The new programme will fund

housing related support services including domestic violence refuges,

sheltered accommodation for older people, independent living

complexes for people with learning difficulties and units for people

with alcohol misuse problems.

As part of their new responsibilities, local authorities will be

required to strategically plan the development of services - which

have previously developed through ad hoc local initiatives -

considering gaps in provision, quality and monitoring and value for

money.

Local authorities have already embarked on a process of tracking

existing support services provided in their local area. They have

been collecting data on these services to ensure a smooth transition

to the new arrangements.

Transforming the School Workforce The Secretary of State for

Education and Skills set out her vision for the future of the school

workforce in the pamphlet - 'Professionalism and Trust'. Her aim is

to improve the recruitment, retention, quality and status of the

teaching profession, and to develop the capacity of the school

workforce as a whole

LEAs have an important role to play in developing local strategies to

help schools with teacher recruitment and retention, professional

development and performance management - linking to other school

improvement measures, and through the deployment of ASTs, and

developing school leadership in conjunction with the NCSL. They can

also do much to help develop the wider school workforce - teaching

assistants, learning mentors, administrative staff, bursars,

technicians etc - providing better support for both pupils and

teachers.

Promoting Sustainable Tourism

Promoting Sustainable Tourism will give local authorities the

opportunity to demonstrate the key role that tourism can play in

supporting communities, promoting regeneration and developing local

economies. The theme will focus primarily on the importance of local

people, local businesses and the local environment.

Supporting Social Care Workers Social care workers are a key part of

delivering the Government's modernisation agenda. They are at the

centre of change in public services, because they operate in so many

different areas - prisons, hospitals, community mental health teams,

schools as well as social services departments, residential care

homes, day centres and in service users own homes. The quality of the

workforce is crucial for the quality of the services that are

provided to vulnerable people. But social care workers often get a

bad press and their role is misunderstood by the public.

The Chief Inspector's report entitled 'A Commitment to Deliver' 2001

highlights that there are some significant obstacles to improvement:

recruitment and retention of appropriately qualified staff being the

most serious but that innovation and good inter- agency practice can

be identified. The Joint Review Report entitled 'People need People'

makes a critical link between good quality services and good

management of people in social services. A Beacon in this area lights

the way for modern solutions to tackle recruitment and retention

problems in councils' social services departments and so enable them

to provide quality services for the most vulnerable in our society.

Round Six

Asset Management

Management of capital assets is an important responsibility for

councils, and increasingly so with the introduction of the single

capital pot. It was defined in the DETR Good Practice Guidelines

(published in 2000) as 'optimising the utilisation of assets in terms

of service benefits and financial return'. Local authorities hold

land and property assets as a support to the provision of services.

The aims of a local authority practising good asset management would

be make full use of these buildings, minimising the opportunity cost

of tying up financial resources in the land or property. This could

be achieved through using the asset for a wide range of activities or

constantly reviewing use to ensure the asset is meeting the changing

demands of communities. There are also exceptional properties that

are held for financial gain rather than to assist service delivery

that would need to be considered in this Beacon themes.

Effective Environmental Health Long-standing responsibilities of

local authorities have included the control on nuisances (such as

noise and waste), enforcement of building regulations and street

cleaning. These 'liveability' issues are among the most important in

the eyes of local people. A Beacon theme will enable all local

authorities to raise their performance.

Getting Closer to Communities

An essential feature of the local government modernisation agenda is

the need for local authorities to get closer to local communities.

This theme will focus on best practice in consultation, in area-based

decision-making and in the integrated delivery of local services.

Healthy Communities

Local authorities are in a key position to influence the wider

determinants of ill health and the causes of health inequalities.

There are many examples of community development projects with a

proven track record of tackling health inequalities. In addition,

there is strong evidence that involving local communities (as a key

partner) in planning ensures that resulting services and

interventions are more accessible and appropriate for the communities

that they are intended for. Therefore, they are better used by the

worst off communities and this contributes to health improvement and

a reduction in health inequalities at a neighbourhood level.

Supporting Carers

Carers play a vital role in looking after those who are sick,

disabled, vulnerable or frail. The Government acknowledges carers'

role and supports them in their caring role.

Councils with social care responsibilities have the duty of ensuring

that Government policies are achieved at the local level. The Carers

and Disabled Children Act came into force in April 2001. The Act

gives councils more power to support carers by providing services to

carers directly, direct payments for carers, the right to a carers

assessment in their own right and development of short term break

voucher schemes. The Carers Grant is ring-fenced for provision of

breaks. Councils are required to consult and involve carers to ensure

that the variety of breaks provided meets the needs of local people.

For instance support for carers in employment, provision of services

for black and minority ethnic carers and information provided by

councils for carers. Other measurable outcomes are emotional support,

training and support to care. Ensuring that the Government's desired

outcome in providing care for carers would require councils to have

stronger dialogue with users and with Primary Care Trusts.

Supporting New Business

Local authorities have a long-standing interest in fostering the

growth of small businesses, including start-ups. Working both direct

and through Business Links and other local partners, including local

enterprise agencies, they can provide small businesses with essential

advice and assistance, such as requirements on local regulations and

bye-laws and the provision of managed workspace. Such support,

together with their wider economic development activities, enable

local authorities to make a real contribution to the development and

growth of small businesses, which are a vital part of a sustainable

and vibrant local economy.

Promoting Racial Equality

The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report and the requirements of Best

Value highlighted the need for public authorities to tackle racism

and unlawful discrimination and promote racial equality, to ensure

that they are representative of the communities they serve and serve

those communities better. Furthermore, the Race Relations (Amendment)

Act 2000 places a positive duty on public authorities actively to

promote racial equality. This requires them to ensure unlawful

discrimination is avoided before it occurs and to promote equality of

opportunity and good relations between persons of different racial

groups. This general duty will be supported by specific duties to

be imposed by secondary legislation and which will set out in more

detail action public authorities need to take.

This theme is not restricted to authorities with large ethnic

minority communities; the need to tackle racism effectively is as

great where ethnic minority communities are small.

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