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LABOUR SPENDING SPREE WILL BE LINKED WITH NEW PERFORMANCE TARGETS

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Gordon Brown will set targets to improve the worst-performing public services in return for raising annual spending...
Gordon Brown will set targets to improve the worst-performing public services in return for raising annual spending by more than£40bn within three years, according to The Financial Times (p2).

And in a speech today, environment secretary John Prescott will give the first details of how allocations - to be announced in July - are likely to be spent.

One of the issues will be to tackle adult skills problems; money for regional development agencies to regenerate their areas; and schemes such as Sure Start, helping disadvantaged families with young children.

Mr Brown is committed to spending an extra£13bn on health by 2003-04, the third year of the review, compared with the baseline figure for 2001-02.

The chancellor has now decided that at least£28bn will be available to other departments. That figure was implied in his Budget statement in March, but could only be finalised after a firmer estimate of demand-led social security spending.

The Guardian (p1) reports that behind the confident ministerial rhetoric, the government is poised to admit that many of the performance targets it set for health, education and other public policies barely two years ago were too ambitious, too precise, too vague or almost meaningless.

When details of the second comprehensive spending review are revealed, a simplified system of performance indicators will be introduced - public service agreements; 200 instead of the 600 launched in 1998.

Under a scheme designed by the Treasury's senior official, Sir Andrew Turnbull, there will be two sets of targets: one for annual average improvements in national policy areas such as different GCSE results and cancer cures; plus a second set of minimum performance increases to be called 'floor targets', which must be met in 'every part of the country'.

The new floor targets model, due to come into effect in 2001-02, means that the worst-performing schools, hosptials or crime-ridden police authorities will be required to improve by a specified minimum, instead of being allowed to 'hide behind' the average rise achieve by more successful rivals.

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