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CABINETS FORMED IN ISOLATION - IDeA/DETR REPORT

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Councils have been creating new political structures as an isolated exercise. These are the findings of a report pu...
Councils have been creating new political structures as an isolated exercise. These are the findings of a report published by the IDeA jointly with the DETR.

New forms of political management arrangements evaluates developments within six local authorities who all implemented political executive models in advance of legislation.

The report was launched this week by Beverley Hughes, DETR minister, at a major conference, New structures, new solutions - modernising political management structures, in London.

Launching the report Ms Hughes said: 'I hope you find the case studies as interesting as I have done. There are many valuable lessons to be learnt. Not least, that you cannot just put one part of the structure in place and hope the rest just fits. You need to think about the role of overview and scrutiny committees, the role of the executive, the role of stakeholders as a whole.'

The report found that the case study authorities had more relative success creating executive structures than other components of new systems. Professor Michael Clarke of Birmingham University who was involved in the project said: 'There has been more effort and commitment put into the creation of the executive role than other aspects of new structures.'

Prof Clarke highlighted that the new structures are just one part of a bigger agenda and shouldn't be looked at in isolation: 'There's a danger we lose sight of everything this is about - to improve local government services. Councils must think about how the new structures link to best value, community leadership, democratic renewal and the ethical framework.

He added: 'This is not about praise or blame however but a means of learning from one another'

The report identifies a number of key issues, including:

Policy development

Overview and scrutiny

The role of non-executive councillors

Implications for officers

The role and impact of the party group

Decentralised arrangements

Other key findings of the report included the fact that there was potential for cross-cutting portfolios to strengthen corporate capacity, there was evidence of councils dispatching business more efficiently but there was a lack of transparency and openness in working of executives.

As part of the project a self-evaluation toolkit was produced which assists councils to think about whether their structures are really working and how to improve them.

Beverly Hughes praised the learning and evaluation opportunities offered by the project: 'This research report and the self-evaluation toolkit which accompanies it are further valuable tools to help you in thinking about the new arrangements. I would like to thank the IDeA, INLOGOV and the six case studies for their help.'

The report is priced£40 and the self-evaluation toolkit£25, however both can be purchased for£50 on 020 7296 6522.

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