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PRESCOTT PROPOSES CLP SUMMIT TO REVIEW FOCUS

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Fears that the Central Local Partnership with government has stalled have prompted a special meeting between the tw...
Fears that the Central Local Partnership with government has stalled have prompted a special meeting between the two sides.

The autumn meeting will allow both sides to take stock of how the arrangement is working, three years after ministers set up the machinery for regular contact between the Local Government Association and Cabinet ministers.

Deputy prime minister John Prescott proposed the summit at this week's CLP meeting after the LGA tabled a paper on how the CLP is working. Local government leaders welcomed the creation of the CLP by the new government in 1997, but are now demanding a sharper focus.

The report uses education as an example. The Department for Education and Employment has been the ministry with which the LGA has had the most strained relationship since the 1997 election.

The LGA paper says: 'The CLP has, for example, discussed the treatment of education funding in the forthcoming local government finance green paper, but it hasn't had a wide-ranging discussion on the education role of local councils.'

The association says the forum should be used for a dialogue in which ministers and local government leaders 'were open about their expectations of and concerns'.

That frustration is compounded by the lack of activity on the part of some CLP sub groups - six months after its formation the group on social exclusion has not met.

But the association is at pains in the paper to emphasise the value of the CLP machinery, a sentiment echoed by LGA chairman Sir Jeremy Beecham in LGC's features pages this week.

Sir Jeremy is responding to Local Government Information Unit director Dennis Reed, who questioned the value of the link (LGC, 7 July). Sir Jeremy writes that the association's CLP work is aimed at influencing government policy rather than grabbing headlines.

LGA communications director Phil Swann said the paper acknowledged there are tensions between the government's commitment to devolution and its increased use of centrally driven targets and objectives.

He said: 'In future we would like to see just three or four issues on the CLP agenda which would indicate where both sides see local government going over the next two or three years. The detailed work would be left to sub-groups.'

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