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Ministers may intervene on targets, warns Healey

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Central government may step in if councils fail to include ministerial priorities in their 35 local area agreement targets, local government minister John Healey has warned.

He told LGC’s leadership conference on Monday that while a new willingness existed in Whitehall to trust local government, there were limits to the freedoms that councils could expect.

“I had the leader of a unitary say to me that he hoped his government regional office would not be setting any of his targets,” Mr Healey said.

“That shows a failure to understand the relationship between central and local government.”

He added that there were policy areas where the public held central government responsible for performance, and it could not therefore allow councils to decide that these were not priorities.

He gave the example of home secretary Jacqui Smith, who, he said “feels people expect central government to ensure high levels of local policing and safety, and that she will be judged
on that”.

Among the other areas in which central government had a “direct interest in local government playing its part, not doing its own thing” was social care, the minister said.

David Clark, director general of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers, said the government needed to clarify its position over the indicators.

“It is time for the government to come clean and outline which are genuinely national targets and which are genuinely local.

“If the government is clear about what its position is, it will give the debate some clarity,” he said.

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