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Government report insists take-up of community rights is strong

The take up of so-called ‘community rights’ has provided “clear evidence of the appetite amongst communities to play a greater role in the decisions that affect them”, the Government has insisted in a report.

In Open Public Services 2014, it reported that for:

  • Local plans: As at the end of January 2014, 52% of local planning authorities had adopted a local plan. Three quarters (75%) had at least published a draft plan. This was up from 32% in 2010.
  • Neighbourhood plans: As of January 2014, 880 communities were working on neighbourhood plans. This was an increase of more than 300 since the Open Public Services update in 2013.
  • Community Right to Bid: Since this right was introduced in 2012, 900 communities had made use of it “to initiate dialogue and action around the places and spaces that mean most to them”. In 57 communities, the sale of the community asset in question had been put on hold for an initial six-month period. However, in just six cases had the community purchased the asset directly.
  • Community Right to Challenge: More than 30 community groups have engaged their local authority to propose alternative plans for the running of local services, “which have resulted in productive dialogues and generation of innovative new ideas”. However, the report does not say how many groups have actually gone on to run those services.

The Government said it was also seeking to improve transparency around dates for key local authority meetings, to enable people to be more involved in local decision making. It said that, to support this, it would soon be publishing a revised local transparency code.

“And we are extending the freedoms and powers available to local communities even further,” it claimed. “The new community trigger gives victims and communities the right to require agencies to deal with persistent anti-social behaviour.

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“Victims will be able to use the community trigger to demand action, starting with a review of their case. Agencies including local authorities, the police, local health teams and registered providers of social housing will have a duty to undertake a case review when someone requests one and their case meets a locally defined threshold.”

The Government maintained in Open Public Services 2014 that public services were being transformed. “The old, centralised model of public service delivery was costly and no longer capable of meeting the challenge of delivering the personalised, joined up public services that the public expect and need.”

The report said, amongst other things, that:

  • Free schools and academies: A further 93 such schools had opened in the last year, with a further 123 approved to work towards opening in 2014. As of February 2014 there were 3,657 academies.
  • Personal budgets: In April 2014 new legislation would come into force that would mean all patients who were eligible for ‘continuing healthcare’ from the NHS would have a right to ask for a personal health budget, to purchase tailored health care services.
  • Mental health: From April, patients needing treatment would for the first time be able to choose where they get their care. This choice will not be limited to an NHS provider.
  • The Our Place programme: The Government had committed a further £4.3m to enable 100 more communities “to tackle the issues which matter most to them”.
  • Troubled families: Midway through this programme, 62,000 families were being worked with, “22,000 of whom had already had their lives turned around”.
  • Better Care Fund: A £3.8bn pooled fund had been created to promote joint working between councils and the local NHS to jointly plan and deliver health and care services in 2015/16.
  • The Public Service Transformation Network: This had been launched in March 2013 to champion a ‘whole place’, multi-agency approach to public service reform.
  • Social impact bonds: The UK now had more of such bonds “than the rest of the world put together”. A new tax relief for investments in social enterprises will be introduced with effect from April 2014.
  • Mutuals: The Mutuals Support Programme had supported the development of more than 160 mutuals. Around 85 mutuals were already live and trading, with over 28,000 staff.
  • The Pupil Premium: The total amount delivered to schools would be £2.5bn in 2014/15, up from £1.8bn in 2013/14.
  • The New Homes Bonus: Paid to councils to incentivise creation of new homes, this had allocated £2.2bn of funding since April 2011 to reward the delivery of nearly 550,000 homes and the bringing of 93,000 long-term empty homes back into use.

A copy of Open Public Services 2014 can be viewed here.

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