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Data should flow across community budgets, ministers say

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The government has committed to removing obstacles to information sharing with councils involved in community budgets.

In a response to October’s communities and local government select committee report, ministers said: “The government would like to take this opportunity to reiterate to the committee our shared commitment to unblock the barriers to better information sharing so that places can design and deliver services in more integrated and efficient ways.”

MPs had criticised a “culture in central and local government that is averse to sharing data”, partly because of real or imagined restrictions from data protection legislation, and called for new laws if the problem could not be resolved.

The response said the Transformation Network’s centres of excellence would “help local places tackle cultural or operational barriers to better information sharing” and would also “have a role to encourage consistency across central government”.

Ministers also agreed with the committee that councils should be able to implement community budgets whether or not they held pilot status.

“The government agrees that local authorities should not be held back or discouraged from going ahead with service transformation because they are not a named pilot,” the response said.

Essex CC was one of the four original pilots, but the council complained that its efforts to use community budgets to promote economic growth had “hit a brick wall”.

The response said the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills “welcomes Essex CC’s commitment to prioritise employer demand for skills, and it is possible that more can be done within the scope of existing government policy”. It added that the department “strongly supports and is keen to work with local places to better align the funding of work and skills provision and the outcomes delivered”.

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