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Year off for slump-hit targets

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Councils have been given a year’s grace on setting targets for recession-affected areas such as house building and job creation.

The Department for Communities & Local Government earlier this month concluded negotiations on the first ‘refresh’ of every upper-tier local authority’s local area agreement.

And targets for indicators such as NI154 - the number of new homes built - and NI171 (new business start-ups) will now not be set until April 2010.

Jo Dungey, senior policy analyst at the Local Government Association, said councils had been wary about missing out on reward grants by setting unrealistic targets.

“I would have expected a lot of renegotiation of those targets to have taken place this year, but in fact they will now be renegotiated next year,” she said.

Ms Dungey added that renegotiations had been a distraction to councils seeking to concentrate on delivery.

“Our concern would be that the renegotiation process has been dominated by technical issues and quibbling over small percentage differences when what councils want to do is focus on tackling problems like housing need and unemployment,” she added.

Other issues reported during the renegotiation process included central government departments seeking to impose, rather than agree, targets.

According to an LGA newsletter, this was particularly the case for teenage pregnancy indicators, where the Department of Health has a longstanding commitment to halve conception rates.

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