Community engagement is embedded into the latest policy to improve and modernise local government. These policies can be grouped under four main headings.
The new performance framework applies to all partners working on local issues. Community engagement is at the heart of the following aspects:
The government has set 198 national indicators (NIs) for local improvement, many of which measure citizen engagement and community involvement. Each local area agreement (LAA) must choose up to 35 of these.
Every local strategic partnership (LSP) is expected to report on all 198 indicators. The indicators apply to all partners.
There are seven indicators in the national indicator set (NIS) that relate to community empowerment. Most LAAs have one or more of them:
Find out more about NIs on the Communities and Local Government website:
Comprehensive area assessment (CAA) replaces comprehensive performance assessment (CPA) as the new way of reporting how well communities are being served by public services. It will bring together many sources of evidence, one of which is the information from seven key inspectorates. These are the Audit Commission, Ofsted, HM Inspectorate of Prisons, the Healthcare Commission, Commission for Social Care Inspection, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, HM Inspectorate of Probation.
The CAA will explicitly assess community engagement, looking at:
The seven inspectorates are also expected to assess how well public sector organisations:
The CAA will publish an annual report on their findings, specifically to spur community engagement and improve public sector performance.
The Local Government Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 introduced two new duties:
Section 138 of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act came into effect on 1 April 2009. It imposes a duty on all local authorities and best value authorities to involve local representatives when carrying out 'any of its functions' by providing information, consulting or ‘involving in another way'. Best value authorities include fire and rescue authorities, national park authorities, passenger transport authorities and such like. Authorities must consult 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's function.
The duty is scoped widely - it applies to the delivery of services policy and decision making. Authorities will also need to consider how organisations to whom they contract out work will adhere to the principles underpinning the duty.
Furthermore, authorities must not discriminate in the way they inform, consult or involve local people. They must promote equal opportunities for people to engage and get involved.
Find out more about the 'duty to involve' - on the Community Development Foundation website
The key aspects of this duty are as follows:
There are two duties for local councils designed to give councillors and the public complementary powers to raise issues of local concern and demand action:
The upcoming Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill proposes a duty on local councils to respond to all petitions, including e-petitions, that relate to:
Where Overview and Scrutiny decide there has been inadequate response to a petition, then the matter will be referred to the full council for a public debate. And if five per cent of the local population sign a petition, then it must be debated in full council.
Petitions will be noted as one of the evidence sources for the CAA.
The Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 gave all councillors the powers to require local service providers to respond to an issue of concern. Where a response is not adequate, councillors can refer the matter to Overview and Scrutiny.
In addition, councils and partners must consult citizens on all local strategies, such as the Sustainable Community strategy and the Local Development framework. Consultation for LAAs will inform the choice of targets so they reflect local priorities and concerns.
One of the underlying principles behind the CAA is that user and resident views should play a larger part in judging the performance of councils and their partners, thus helping improve responsiveness. New techniques for community engagement are being advocated by central government to ensure that councils and their partners have a deep understanding of local needs and aspirations. These techniques include participatory budgeting and asset transfer.
28 June 2012