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Community budget pilots to start

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Details of the future of “community budgets” will be unveiled over the coming weeks, senior sources told LGC this week.

Chancellor George Osborne announced in his spending review that 16 localities (below) are to take part in pilots and revealed that the focus would be on “families with complex needs”. An announcement on “place-based budgets” had widely been expected.

He said: “[The first community budgets] will pool departmental budgets for local public service partnerships to work together more effectively, help improve outcomes, and reduce duplication and waste.”

All places could be able to operate these approaches from 2013-14 and “councils and their partners will also have greater flexibility to work across boundaries in health, policing, worklessness and child poverty,” the review added.

The review did not confirm whether departments had agreed to relinquish funds to localities but LGC has been told departments, including the Department for Work & Pensions and the Home Office, among others, were “on board in principle”.

Ministers and senior council figures are set for talks but sources familiar with discussions were confident Whitehall money would be handed to localities. A source said: “The National Audit Office, the Treasury and the Local Government Association have discussed accountability arrangements. I think we will see money from departments put into a pool nationally then given to councils in one block.”

LGA improvement board chair, David Parsons (Con), said: “Pooling all the money spent … into a single budget and taking more informed local decisions is undoubtedly the right thing to do.”

But LGA vice-chair Richard Kemp (Lib Dem) said: “Place- based budgeting was not high enough on the agenda. This must only be the start.”

The 16 pilots

Greater Manchester, Leicestershire, Croydon, Blackpool, Islington, Hull, Kent, Blackburn with Darwen, Bradford, Swindon, Lewisham, Essex, Lincolnshire, Birmingham, Barnet and a group of Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea, Hammersmith & Fulham, Wandsworth

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