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Whitehall falls flat on joined-up work

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LGC editor Karen Day on why the CSR exposes the government's neglect.

Joined-up government is one of those public policies that is great in theory, but rarely happens in practice. Last week's comprehensive spending review was a case in point.

As the dust settles and councils pick through the bones of a rather thin settlement, the discrepancies are already beginning to show.

Take economic development. Back in the summer the government announced this would be central focus for authorities. According to the sub-national economic development and regeneration review, councils should have a key role in boosting local and regional economies. The review had already inspired some to start looking at working as city regions or with multi-area agreements. The direction was set or at least it was until last week.

Now we are left scratching our heads as to why in the midst of this economic focus the Local Authority Business Growth Incentive scheme would be so drastically scaled back. It was a£1bn fund to help councils develop sustainable economic growth, but in the next three years it will be a mere shadow.

Then there are the performance indicators. Ministers were using the slimmed down PIs to soften the blow of a poor finance settlement, offering more flexibility for councils to use less money. But these 198 indicators are already looking shaky. As we report this week the Department for Communities & Local Government isn't the only body that councils deliver for andWhitehallalso has targets to meet.

The communities secretary has already conceded that departments will try and sneak controls through the back door despite promising that local area agreements would be the only game in town.

If we really had anything near joined-up government, the departments would have already worked together to make sure indicators reflected their demands. But that's just in theory. In practice it's a case of squealing to the DCLG every time an authority comes under pressure.

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