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Community budgets to be rolled out

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Community budget pilots are to be rolled out to more areas although there is uncertainty about how many councils will be able to take part in this second stage.

The Department for Communities & Local Government invited expressions of interest from councils who want to work “intensively” with the current pilots in order to implement a similar approach in their local area.

Councils have until 15 April to indicate their interest in following in the footsteps of the four community budgets in Essex, Cheshire West & Chester Council, Greater Manchester councils and three west London councils known as the ‘Tri-borough’.

According to Ernst & Young estimates, the community budget approach to pooling budgets in a local area and working across public agencies could save up to £20.6bn over the next five years.

DCLG is also creating a “multi agency network”, as formally announced in the Budget, which will support councils interested in the approach. This has seen Whitehall officials seconded to the areas to aid the progress of the project.

The network is to be made up of “people with experience and expertise from across government departments, councils and local agencies” and is expected to be running by the time the secondary pilot areas are announced in the summer.

The department has set aside £1.5m for the running costs of the network, although a spokeswoman said the exact nature of those running costs was not yet known.

Local government minister Brandon Lewis said: “This will put councils and other local agencies at the centre of a public service revolution, bringing every player together in a smarter way. Stripping out duplication, targeting service dependency and saving hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers money.”

LGA chair Sir Merrick Cockell (Con) welcomed the government’s continued support for community budget pilots but said the potential for savings could only be unlocked if government was prepared to “drive this plan forward throughout Whitehall and ensure that all parts of the country - even those which don’t receive direct support from the new network - can adopt a community budget approach”.

He added: “The pioneering pilot areas have successfully shown that by designing services around people’s needs, by joining up the work of different parts of the public sector and focusing on prevention to reduce demand, we can not only save hundreds of millions of pounds, but actually make these services better too. We can help the elderly stay independent longer, reduce crime and improve job opportunities while saving money.”

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