The government has set deadlines for the implementation of measures in the local government white paper and named the officials responsible for them, in a move which, it claims, reverses its performance management approach to councils.
An implementation plan, first promised by local government secretary Stephen Byers in January and finally published this week, contains completion dates for 121 commitments in the white paper.
Local government minister Nick Raynsford said the naming of officials was unprecedented.
He said: 'It's about trying to raise standards and ensure we deliver services to the best of our ability. We're applying to ourselves the same high standards we think it's right to apply to local government.'
But he added: 'It's not a gimmick. It's not about people phoning our officials wasting their time on the slightest pretext. If people [in a council] have concerns, I would expect the chief executive to contact the official or another senior officer.'
Critics say the government is moving too swiftly on pet projects like the comprehensive performance assessment, while leaving measures considered important by councils until later in the timetable (LGC, 28 March). Mr Raynsford said the plan proved the government's commitment to 'the whole agenda'.
He dismissed worries that the comprehensive performance assessment and a review of the grant distribution formulae are moving too fast: 'There are always people who find excuses for not doing things.'
Senior White Paper Contacts
--Number 10 policy unit
--Office of Public Service Reform
Wendy Thomson, Peter Kane
Lucy de Groot, Paul Johnston
--Department for Education & Skills
--Department of Health
--Department for Work & Pensions
--Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs
--Department for Culture, Media & Sport
--Regional Co-ordination Unit
White Paper Deadlines
-- April Agree methodology for the CPA
--May Consult on a draft intervention strategy and models for failing authorities
--May Draft national priorities for local government
--May Reduce plans by 50%
--May Details on the balance of funding review announced
--July Final intervention strategy
--Summer Review of grant distribution formulae - consultation
--October Consistent performance standards for inspectorates
--November Provisional settlement for 2004/4
--Needing primary legislation Removal of 61 items of red tape
--Ongoing to April 2004 Consent regimes taken off statute book