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Officers slam DCLG record on partnership working

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Just over a quarter of local authority chief executives and senior officers believe the Department for Communities & Local Government is committed to working with councils, according to an LGC survey.

Of the 251 local authority chief executives, directors, and managers LGC surveyed in September, 28% said the department was committed while 29% felt DCLG was uncommitted to working with councils.

NHS England and the Department of Health were judged to said to be the least committed while officers said the Homes & Communities Agency was the most committed.

One chief executive told LGC the DCLG “is a waste of time” and added the government generally “needs to rethink its relationships with local government”.

“It’s disappointingly neglectful and in turn, we don’t hold it in regard either. I think that this is the worst it’s ever been in my 30 year career in local government - and I thought it couldn’t get worse after [Eric] Pickles,” they said.

Another chief executive said: “DCLG only seem interested in criticising and being unhelpful [and have] staff who have no concept at all of the challenges we face and feel that they could do a better job themselves. Their response to Grenfell has been so appalling that one hopes they are waking up and smelling the coffee though I imagine they actually think they have done rather well.”

How committed central government departments, agencies, and organisations are to partnership working
Government departmentCommittedUncommitted
Homes & Communities Agency/Homes England 34% 19%
Highways England 30% 22%
Department for Communities & Local Government 28% 29%
Department for Transport 27% 26%
Department for Education 24% 29%
Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy 23% 23%
Department for Work & Pensions 23% 28%
NHS England 22% 35%
Department of Health 22% 33%

LGC previously reported how survey respondents gave the DCLG a score of 3/10 for its response to the Grenfell Tower fire disaster, while confidence in communities secretary Sajid Javid has plummeted.

While there is a general feeling central government is not hugely committed to partnership working with local authorities, survey respondents were a bit more optimistic about the relationships they have with other councils and local organisations.

This was particularly true for local enterprise partnerships, local businesses, other councils, and schools although academy schools were said to be the least committed to working with local authorities.

How committed partner organisations are to collaboration/co-operation:
Local partnerCommittedUncomitted
Schools 62% 7%
Local business 59% 6%
Other councils 59% 10%
LEP 59% 6%
Housing associations (if applicable) 55% 4%
CCGs 51% 13%
Public transport providers 48% 13%
Hospitals 42% 12%
Academy schools 32% 21%

One officer said: “Partnership working and collaboration is stronger in the primary sector than secondary across both schools and academies.”

Another officer said working with others is “heavy going” while one director added being “committed doesn’t equal effective”.

One respondent said it was the “council that normally lets down partnership working [as] it remains too slow to change and has a poor reputation”.

A chief executive said “the danger will be that austerity will continue to eliminate enthusiasm and energy”.

A DCLG spokesman said: “We are absolutely committed to having a strong, open and constructive relationship with local authorities and ensuring their views are taken into account as policies are developed.”

This story was updated at 09.23am on 24 October to include DCLG’s comment.

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