Last Friday the front page of the Daily Telegraph featured a story that the government is planning to appoint local neighbourhood managers - many from the private sector - who would take over part of a council's budget to run services such as schools, parks and police stations.
According to the newspaper: 'Whitehall sources admitted that although the managers' powers would be fairly limited at first, the aim was to extend them 'incrementally' to take over many of the responsibilities of local authorities. They will be involved in decisions on planning, policing and housing and be able to influence the award of local contracts.'
The policy would be 'the key plank' of the urban white paper expected early next year.
The Local Government Association, which is closely involved with the unit, believed it had successfully argued against the proposal, and a subsequent draft from the same team strongly recognised the role of councils.
The LGA is concerned that someone in the unit is now trying to get the proposal back into policy papers.
Neil Kinghan, director of local government finance at the LGA, is a member of one of the social exclusion unit's teams. He told LGC: 'Local authorities are critical to the improvement of deprived neighbourhoods. They have to be a major part of the solution and we hope the government and the social exclusion unit recognise that.'