Councils could take a leading role in new beefed-up local strategic partnerships under Innovation Forum proposals being considered by the government.
Chief secretary to the Treasury Paul Boateng told top-performing councils the government would seek to reduce the number of targets, and increase local ownership of those that remain, to enable progress on the new-style LSPs.
However, councils warn the success of the scheme depends on government willingness to allow LSPs to opt out of national targets which clash with local ones.
Andrew Slaughter (Lab), leader of Hammersmith & Fulham, said the government must honour its commitment to freedoms.
'There is mileage in developing more structural links between local public services, provided government fulfils its stated intention to devolve decision-making, and be more flexible over targets and funding,' he said.
But according to observers, the government has yet to prove its commitment to the forum.
Dennis Reed, chief executive of the Local Government Information Unit, said there was little evidence the effort put into the forum by top councils was paying off.
'The forum doesn't meet for months on end and, given the time it has been running, it does not appear to be a raging fire of activity,' he said.
Sir Brian Briscoe, chief executive of the Local Government Association, said the forum was not moving as quickly as the LGA would like.
The forum was set up to allow the 22 councils ranked 'excellent' under the comprehensive performance assessment negotiate freedoms directly with government.