Almost a third of authorities involved in the government’s flagship troubled families programme are set to see their funding docked after failing to hit targets for the project’s first year.
The scale of the potential losses are revealed in an LGC analysis of figures released by the Department for Communities and Local Government this week.
These show that 42 of England’s 152 top-tier councils have worked with fewer than 75% of the families they orginally pledged to help by March 2013. Under the rules of the programme, these authorities will receive only half of the government cash for this year. They can only win the remaining share if they catch up by next month.
As previously reported, communities secretary Eric Pickles warned a conference of council officers in January that the three-year programme’s £448m should be spend in areas where the programme was working well. “You can’t seriously expect us to send money over if it’s not working,” he said.
Councils furthest away from their targets have however defended their apparent slow progress.
According to the DCLG figures, Lincolnshire CC was the worst trailer, having only worked with a third of the families it had agreed to support by March.
Its chief executive Tony McArdle put its apparent trailing down to a “statistical aberration”. “We didn’t have the numbers collated by March,” he added. “There were families being supported by other agencies that we hadn’t counted.” The authority was “virtually back on track”, he added, having almost trebled its number to 431 since the March data was collected.
Buckinghamshire CC also scored low. Our analysis reveals it had worked with just 36% of the families it had originally planned to help by March.
Joy Shakespeare, head of the council’s troubled families programme, said it was “focusing on doing it right, not doing it quickly.” Buckinghamshire CC was confident it would catch up, she added.
“We are going deeper and wider than the three-year programme that has government funding,” she said. “We’re using the money to train, consult, research, plan and make sure we understand our population.”
Newham LBC was the fourth-furthest council from its target. A spokesman said: “The DCLG figures are slightly misleading, with councils able to interpret them differently.”