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COUNTIES SEE FUTURE AS LEADING LIGHTS FOR SERVICES

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More than half the English shire counties will be bidding for beacon status, according to the County Councils Netwo...
More than half the English shire counties will be bidding for beacon status, according to the County Councils Network, a Local Government Association special interest group.

The deadline for applications for beacon council status is tomorrow. The DETR refused to estimate how many would apply, anticipating that many would submit their forms at the last minute.

Network director John Sellgren said he hoped the government would widen the range of services included in the beacon council scheme in future years.

'There are a number of areas which are high on the government's agenda - such as lifelong learning, integrated transport, public health and social exclusion - which do not feature in the scheme and which we will be urging the minister to include in the beacon council programme in future years,' he said.

The beacon council scheme aims to raise standards in all councils by spreading best practice.

In the first year, around 40 councils will be awarded beacon status.

This year, councils may apply for beacon status in up to three of seven service areas.

Ministers will select beacon councils on the basis of advice from an independent advisory panel which includes the LGA.

Service areas for beacon status:

Community safety: preventing local shopping and town centre crime and disorder

Education: helping to raise standards by tackling school failure

Housing: improving housing maintenance

Modernising planning: streamlining the planning process for business

Modern service delivery: improving the housing and council tax benefit administration

Social services: helping care leavers

Sustainable development: dealing with waste.

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