Communities minister Bob Neill has told councils to forge ahead with Total Place projects, although questions remained about how much support the programme had outside the Department for Communities & Local Government.
Mr Neill’s comments represent the new government’s first endorsement for Total Place - a whole-area approach to public services - after the programme failed to get a mention in the coalition agreement.
The junior local government minister (pictured), who was addressing a Leadership Centre for Local Government dinner, said the programme was likely to be rebranded and emphasised that councils would be judged on “outcomes”.
However, questions remain about how the new government will structure the two main groups set up to champion the programme at Whitehall level.
John Atkinson, managing director of the Leadership Centre, said the high-level officials’ group - which included DCLG director general for local government Irene Lucas and the Treasury’s director of public services Helen Bailey - would remain intact but the ministerial group set up to drive joint working across government could be changed.
“Whether this continues as a separate group or gains more potency by becoming the work of a wider-reaching, cross-cabinet committee remains to be seen,” he said.
Mr Atkinson welcomed Mr Neill’s support and said Total Place pilot councils would prove they could deliver the required outcomes.
Engagement by senior ministers with the programme is to be closely monitored, with senior councillors last week privately questioning the Total Place commitment of those outside the DCLG, such as health secretary Andrew Lansley.
Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Liam Byrne was a driving force behind the Total Place ministerial group. Local Government Association improvement board chairman David Parsons (Con) said he hoped the new Treasury secretary would take on a similar role.
“He needs to take up that role and push this through,” he said.