Twenty areas are to investigate the scope for “budgets focused at a very local level” and community-designed-and-delivered services, ministers have announced.
The Department for Communities & Local Government (DCLG) and the Cabinet Office is working with 13 areas, including Birmingham, Bristol, Newcastle, and Stoke.
In addition, the Cabinet Office will work with Cheshire West and Chester, Kingston-upon-Thames, Blackburn, Barnsley, Calderdale, Sheffield, Leeds, Tameside, Warrington “to involve communities in designing and commissioning services that better meet local needs”.
The pilot appears to be building on work being spearheaded by Lord Wei and looking into the “local integrated service model”, as revealed by LGC.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said community budgets, which will also be available for places with elected city mayors, would see various strands of Whitehall funding pooled into a single ‘local bank account’ for tackling social problems around families with complex needs.
The government pledged to role out the community budget model to all councils by 2013.
Mr Pickles said: “Until now councils have never had the freedom to do things their own way. Whitehall funding has been funneled through hundreds of disparate funding programmes wrapped up in tight financial conditions that effectively strangled local choice. As a result the incentive to be innovative, efficient and responsive to voters instead of Whitehall was dramatically dulled.
“By uprooting the silos, unlocking and relinquishing the spending controls administered by Whitehall we can give towns and places the freedom to direct spending to best meets the needs of the citizens within their boundaries.
Around £8bn a year is spent on around 120,000 families that have multiple problems, with funding only getting to local areas via hundreds of separate schemes and agencies, the DCLG said.