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Watchdog praises community budgets

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The four council areas that hope to save hundreds of millions of pounds by drawing up community budgets have seen their early efforts praised by the government’s spending watchdog and an influential MP.

The National Audit Office has said analysis of the four pilots found they had shown positive signs of progress.

“We encourage the government to continue to work closely with local areas to understand fully what works and what doesn’t,” said NAO head Amyas Morse.

The NAO study points to predictions that the Greater Manchester scheme, which covers 10 local authorities, will make net savings of £270m over five years.

The Cheshire West and Chester pilot expects efficiencies of £56m over the same period, the NAO report said.

Margaret Hodge (Lab), chair of the public accounts committee, said the “early signs” from the four pilots showed they were “learning from past mistakes”.

“This is encouraging and the Department for Communities & Local Government and the local areas involved now need to commit to delivering these interventions,” she added.

The community budget pilot was launched by the government in October 2011 to find new means of public service delivery.

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