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Creating Strong, Safe and Prosperous Communities, Statutory Guidance

Page history last edited by Hugh 12 years, 8 months ago

See also

 

The Strong & Prosperous Communities Statutory Guidance was published on 9th July, 2008.

 

The Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act received Royal Assent on October 30th 2007. This guidance explains the provisions of Part 5, Chapter 1 and Part 7 of the Act, which relate to the new statutory framework for Local Area Agreements (LAA), Joint Strategic Needs Assessments and the new, simplified best value regime, which includes a new duty to involve. It also provides updated guidance on the preparation of sustainable community strategies, under section 4 of the Local Government Act 2000. The guidance only applies to England.

 

Section 1 of the guidance provides an introduction to the concept of a new settlement between central government, local government and their partners and citizens and community leadership, providing a context for the later sections of the document.

 

Section 2 addresses issues of governance and engagement, setting out the role of the Local Strategic Partnership and the leadership role of local authorities within them. The section also deals with the Duty to Involve on best value authorities and how local communities are to be engaged and empowered in shaping the future of their area.

 

Section 3 provides guidance on establishing a vision for the area. The central role of the Sustainable Community Strategy in encapsulating the ‘story of place’ is explained, together with how this Strategy should relate to other local plans and strategies.

 

Section 4 covers the overall establishing of priorities for an area through the Local Area Agreement (including the formal submission, approval, designation and revision processes).

 

Section 5 also addresses the establishing of priorities from the perspective of partners, crucially it explains what is expected in terms of co-operation to determine targets.

 

Section 6 covers the delivery of outcomes for an area. It explains how partner authorities are required to have regard to targets they have agreed in the Local Area Agreements, along with how commissioning and the duty of best value should be addressed in the future.

 
 

 

From Section 2 -Community Empowerment – the duty to involve

 

2.10  There is growing evidence, from both the UK and abroad, that involving citizens in local decision making and service provision has a number of benefits. These include:

  • strengthening the democratic legitimacy of government and the civic life of the community[1]
  • more efficient and effective services[2] that better reflect the needs of users and have higher levels of customer satisfaction[3] 
  • safer communities and a more attractive built environment that meets people’s needs[4]
  • strengthening community cohesion[5]

 

2.11  Local government and other partners have always involved communities in decisions and services and there is a lot of good practice across the country. The new duty to involve seeks to ensure people have greater opportunities to have their say. The aspiration for the new duty is to embed a culture of engagement and empowerment. This means that authorities consider, as a matter of course, the possibilities for provision of information to, consultation with and involvement of representatives of local persons across all authority functions.[6]

 

2.12  The new duty, which comes into force on 1 April 2009, is set out in section 138 of the Act and takes the form of an addition to the best value provisions of the Local Government Act 1999. The duty applies to all best value authorities in England except Police Authorities.[7] [8] For ease of reference the rest of this section will refer to “authorities”, meaning those authorities responsible for meeting the duty.

 

2.13  There is already a range of existing requirements such as statutory requirements to inform, consult with or promote the participation of users or citizens, in relation to individual functions (such as spatial planning), and there are also existing non statutory agreements in certain areas (eg local compacts with the third sector). The duty to involve does not replace these existing requirements. Instead, the new duty needs to be considered in addition to them, ie authorities need to determine whether the new duty requires any extra actions over and above these more specific requirements. In doing so they should also consider whether any extra activities can be conducted jointly with other authorities (see paragraph 2.25 for more detail).

 

2.14  When considering if and how representatives of local persons should be involved authorities should bear in mind that the duty does not give any new powers. For instance it does not enable authorities to pass on duties or responsibilities to another body, group or individual beyond the powers set out in other legislation (eg section 101 of the Local Government Act 1972 – arrangements for discharge of functions by local authorities by a committee, a sub-committee or an officer of the authority; or by any other local authority). Authorities will also want to consider how organisations delivering services on their behalf can best adhere to the principles underpinning this duty.

 

What does the new duty to involve require?

 

2.15  The duty requires authorities to take those steps they consider appropriate to involve representatives of local persons in the exercise of any of their functions, where they consider that it is appropriate to do so. It specifies the three ways of involving that need to be covered in this consideration:

  • providing information about the exercise of the particular function
  • consulting about the exercise of the particular function
  • involving in another way

 

What do we mean by “representatives of local persons”?

 

Within the context of this duty the term “local persons” refers to those likely to be affected by, or interested in, a particular authority function. It should be noted that the term “local persons” is not simply a reference to local residents. It also covers those who work or study in the area (including those who work for the authority); visitors; service users; local third sector groups; businesses; bodies such as parish councils; and anyone else likely to be affected by, or interested in, the function. The term covers children and young people, as well as adults.

The phrase “representatives of local persons” refers to a mix of ”local persons”, ie a balanced selection of the individuals, groups, businesses or organisations the authority considers likely to be affected by, or have an interest in the authority function. As such, authorities should consider the diverse groups within the community who might be affected by, or interested in, a particular authority function (paragraphs 2.22 to 2.23 provide more information on the issues authorities should consider when determining representatives of local persons)

 

What does this mean for elected representatives?

 

In the context of this duty the term “representative” does not refer to formally elected or nominated members of the community. Councillors, and other elected members of the community, have a key role as advocates representing the concerns and wishes of the community. The duty to involve seeks to build on this by increasing the range of opportunities available for citizens to have their say and get involved directly.

 

2.16  Authorities will need to consider whether one, two, all three or none of the approaches at para 2.15 are appropriate in the exercise of any particular function. They will also need to consider the need to adopt different approaches for different functions. The type of involvement that is appropriate is also likely to differ depending on the body in question.

2.17  Authorities should provide representatives of local persons with appropriate information about services, policies and decisions which affect them or might be of interest to them. The provision of information should support representatives of local persons to have their say and get involved in authority functions where appropriate. This therefore goes beyond the simple provision of information on how to access services (including locations, opening hours, eligibility criteria etc), although this remains an important aspect of effective delivery. Authorities should ensure information is provided in a way that representatives of local persons can easily access and understand, tailoring it as appropriate to different audiences to support involvement.

2.18  Authorities should offer representatives of local persons appropriate opportunities to have their say about the decisions and services that affect them through consultation. Some examples of consultation include formal (including mandatory) consultations, satisfaction surveys, as well as direct dialogue with representatives of local persons, for example through deliberative panels and focus groups. Consultation needs to provide genuine opportunities for people to be involved so authorities will want to draw on widespread evidence of what constitutes good practice in consultation.2.19  Authorities should consider where it is appropriate to provide representatives of local persons with opportunities to have their say and get involved in activities over and above being informed and consulted. ‘Involvement’ will be the most interactive form of engagement, giving representatives of local persons greater influence over decisions or delivery. Authorities should consider providing opportunities for representatives of local persons to:

  • influence or directly participate in decision making (eg in helping to shape local priorities via citizen panels, service advisory panels, neighbourhood management, participatory budgeting; citizen juries)[9]
  • provide feedback on decisions, services, policies and outcomes (eg ‘have your say’ section on the authority website; service-user forums; petitions; and feedback forms being made available)
  • co-design/work with the authority in designing policies and services (eg being involved in the commissioning of services)
  • co-produce/carry out some aspects of services for themselves (for example having responsibility for the maintenance of a community centre; the transfer of the management of assets; communities taking part in ‘street clean up’ or environmental conservation work)
  • work with the authority in assessing services (eg citizens acting as mystery shoppers, user evalutors and as co-opted members of Overview and Scrutiny Committees)[10]

 

The role of information provision in consultation and involvement

 

When consulting and/or involving representatives of local persons authorities should clarify the purpose, scope and parameters of the activity.

When consulting authorities should consider how to ensure local representatives are aware of:

  • the different options available, the pros and cons of each and any other relevant background information
  • the decision making process (ie how decisions are made, who makes the final decision and what evidence is taken into consideration)
  • how their views will inform decisions
  • how the authority will inform representatives of local persons about the authority’s actions/decisions and any relevant means of appeal

The importance of feedback

 

Authorities should consider how they feed back the outcomes of any consultation or involvement to representatives of local persons. In doing so we would encourage authorities to make clear how the input of representatives of local persons has contributed to the decision/s.

 

It may not be possible, or appropriate, to take the particular course of action favoured by representatives of local persons. It will be the role of the authority to take the final decision, balancing different (sometimes competing) interests. In such cases authorities should still seek to explain how representatives of local persons have influenced the course of action taken by the authority, as well as the reasons for the final decision.

 

 


Applying the duty

 

When is it appropriate to inform, consult and/or involve?

 

2.20  Authorities will need to consider how they go about meeting the duty in relation to routine functions, as well as significant one-off decisions. In doing so they should also seek to link up, and ideally combine, engagement opportunities with activities being run across the authority as well as by other local partners (see paragraph 2.4 for more details). They should not shy away from involving people in difficult issues but will need to be clear in such circumstances about how much influence over decisions is being offered.

 

2.21  In meeting this duty, authorities should consider:

 

  • privacy: representatives of local persons should not be involved in individuals’ personal matters eg individual cases of adoption. However it might be appropriate to inform, consult and/or involve representatives of local persons in the policy development around these issues
  • previous engagement or involvement (either by the authority or others): this should be used to inform the next stage of involvement with the public so as to avoid duplication and to help move any engagement forward
  • possible benefits and costs: authorities should consider the predicted benefits of informing, consulting and/or involving against the costs of that involvement

 

 

Who should be informed, consulted and/or involved?

 

2.22  Authorities should determine whom it would be appropriate to inform, consult or involve (see paragraph 2.15 for explanation of the phrase representatives of local persons). This will vary depending on the type of authority (including the spatial level at which they operate) or the policy or service in question.

 

2.23  We recognise that many authorities are well aware of the need to engage a diverse range of groups within the community and to take action to ensure that all groups within the area are engaged. This is particularly important in the discharge of this new duty. Authorities will need to consider carefully who might be affected by, or interested in, a particular function and ensure any information provision, consultation or involvement opportunity effectively reaches the relevant parts of the community – including those who can often be marginalised or vulnerable people (sometimes referred to as ‘hard to reach’). It is important that information provision, consultation and involvement opportunities are not limited to those with the ‘loudest voice’. Authorities should be aware that equality requirements will apply to the duty to involve.


The role of the third sector

What do we mean by “the third sector”?

 

The Government defines the third sector as non-governmental organisations that are value driven and which principally reinvest their surpluses to further social, environmental or cultural objectives. It includes voluntary and community organisations, charities, social enterprises, cooperatives and mutuals. Each area will want to develop and keep under review an understanding of the third sector operating in their locality.[11] 

 

2.24  There are three possible ways authorities should think about involving the third sector as part of the new duty. Firstly, local third sector organisations might be affected by, or interested in, a particular authority function. As such an authority might decide that it is appropriate to inform, consult and/or involve the group in some way. Secondly, third sector organisations might have a role as advocates for local people (particularly marginal and/or otherwise vulnerable groups).

Therefore an authority might decide to involve a third sector organisation in addition to individual citizens and groups. Finally, third sector organisations might be able to provide relevant expertise and specialist knowledge that might help the authority in reaching out to marginalised and vulnerable groups.

What information, consultation and/or involvement is appropriate?

 

2.25  Authorities regularly need to make decisions about how best to engage their local community. In terms of fulfilling the duty we would expect authorities to consider :

  • Accessibility: authorities should ensure that representatives of local persons are informed/consulted/involved in a way that considers their needs. The appropriate method of engagement will depend on local circumstances and the audience the authority is trying to reach. Authorities should monitor the effectiveness of the chosen method of engagement.
  • Proportionality: authorities should consider the resources needed to inform, consult, and/or involve appropriately. The extent of the engagement should be proportionate to the significance of the issue – both to the authority and to local people – and to the benefits to be gained from involvement.
  • Coordination: authorities should ensure that activities to inform, consult and involve representatives of local persons do not take place in isolation, but as part of an integrated approach across the area.[12] As such, authorities should have a coordinated approach to information provision, consultation and involvement. They should ensure relevant knowledge, expertise and experience are shared between officers and elected representatives and future engagement activities are planned using this knowledge
  • Partnership-working: we would also encourage authorities to work with partners through their Local Strategic Partnership to co-ordinate information provision, consultation and involvement and to share relevant knowledge (see paragraphs 2.4 to 2.6)
  • Timing: authorities should consider when representatives of local persons should be informed, consulted and/or involved. In line with best practice it should be as early as possible to ensure that authority functions are shaped around the needs and aspirations of the community

 

What will success look like?

 

2.26  The activities that authorities undertake to meet the duty will depend on local circumstances. Appropriate engagement and empowerment should be embedded as standard practice throughout authorities, central to service delivery, policy and decision making.

2.27  Authorities should be able to demonstrate, through evidence gathered in the normal course of business, that:

  • they understand the interests and requirements of the local community.
  • they use their understanding to ensure information, consultation and involvement opportunities are provided on the right issues, targeted at the right people, and accessible to those the authority is trying to reach
  • they have an appropriate corporate approach to providing information, consulting and involving in other ways that flows throughout their organisation – from strategic policies into individual service delivery – and that they coordinate their engagement activities with partners where appropriate.
  • local people will feel that the authority provides relevant and accessible engagement opportunities and will know how to get involved, either directly or though their elected representative. Local people will recognise that the authority’s priorities and policies reflect this involvement and services are tailored to local needs, even though difficult choices in service provision.


[1]    The benefits of community engagement, a review of the evidence, Ben Rogers and Emily Robinson, Home Office / IPPR, 2004; How local Government Devolves, and Why, LGA / Young Foundation/IDeA, 2006.

[2]    Housing: Improving services through resident involvement, The Audit Commission & Housing Corporation, 2004

[3]    Improving delivery in mainstream services in deprived areas ñ the role of community

[4]    Neighbourhood Management: An overview of the 2003 and 2006 Round 1 Pathfinder Household Survey, Communities and Local Government, 2006

[5]    Our Shared Future, the report of the Commission on Integration and Cohesion, 2007

[6]    That is all of an authority’s powers and duties.

[7]    Best value authorities required to meet the new duty: Local authorities; National Park Authorities; the Broads Authority;Fire & Rescue Authorities; Waste Disposal Authorities; Joint Waste Authorities; Passenger Transport authorities; Transport for London; Greater London Authority in so far as it exercises its functions through the mayor; and the London Development Agency.

[8]    Police Authorities are exempt from this duty as they are already covered by similar provisions in Section 96 in the Police Act 1996; Section 157 the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005.

[9]    See also the sections on consultation as part of preparing the Sustainable Community Strategy and draft Local Area Agreement

[10]  For practical information on involving people see www.peopleandparticipation.net.

 

 

[11] See also paras 6.15 and 6.16 of this document

[12]  The local government white paper, Strong and Prosperous Communities (published October 2007) and the planning white paper, Planning for the Sustainable Future (published June 2007) highlighted the importance of authorities having a co-ordinated approach to engagement. To facilitate this we are proposing to repeal the requirement of an independent examination of the Statement of Community Involvement by the Planning Inspectorate. This means authorities will have more flexibility around how they use the statement and can therefore extend the scope of the statement, should they wish to.

 

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