Local Strategic Partnerships

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2008 Local Government Service Group Conference
30 April 2008

Conference notes that services delivered under the auspices of “Local Strategic Partnerships” (LSP’s) will have an increasingly significant impact on UNISON members in many Service Groups; but it will impact in particular, and sooner, on members in Local Government because of the leading role local authorities have in LSP’s and the planned shift in funding. The Government is proposing to lift £5 billion of funding, mainly from councils, by 2010/11to create a “single pot” to be redirected, on a bid basis, to LSP’s or thematic partnerships who will commission services from pooled budgets.

LSP’s can commonly comprise of local authorities, police authorities, health authorities, education providers, the community and voluntary sector, transport authorities and private sector bodies, representatives of which act as an ‘executive’ for the delivery of 35 strategic national targets and agreed local targets through a range of initiatives, such as Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership, Health and Wellbeing Partnership, Children and Young Peoples Partnership and the Sustainable Community Strategy. These are set out in Local Area Agreements (LAA’s) or Multi Area Agreements (MAA’s) which the relevant Local Authority, or Lead Local Authority, negotiates with Government on behalf of all the partners.

All councils will be covered by a LSP, but only unitary councils will have a responsibility to prepare the LAA/MAA, with non-unitary councils deemed as “partner authorities”. All the public sector partners in the LSP have a duty to cooperate to agree the targets and a duty to cooperate to have regard to the targets, whereas non public body partners do not. But only the local authority partner will be held accountable by government for achieving the agreed targets. A LAA or MAA is a three-year agreement and whilst there may be a degree of freedom, compared to the current arrangements, in terms of how the LSP can spend its funding, the clear intention of the Government is to move the agenda, on a step-change basis, to a commissioning model rather than a delivery model.

The majority of the LSP ‘executive’ will be unelected and even though local councillors will have seats on the board they will be in the minority. As such the LSP represents another form of quango, whereby public monies are redirected away from democratically elected bodies and elected representatives will have a minority influence on a day to day basis. It is another step towards the Thatcherite idea of the enabling, arms length local council. It is no surprise, therefore, that the Trade Unions do not have a right to a seat on the LSP.

Local councils are already operating in an increasing environment of reduced real-term funding, efficiency savings requirements and shared services. In this situation the removal of some local council funding to the single pot for LSP’s, and the undemocratic nature of the LSP constitution, will present a real danger of outsourcing and marketisation as a quick fix solution to budgetary pressures. UNISON members in local government will face the increasing possibility of being transferred out to other public or private employers or to new forms of delivery vehicles commissioned by the partnerships.

Conference welcomes the union’s “Make Local Services Count” Campaign. Conference notes that the introduction of local strategic partnerships provides significant challenges for UNISON in bargaining and organising our members.

Conference recognises this is an issue that cuts across Branches and Service Groups and effective engagement of UNISON has to be coordinated between the affected local Branches and the Regional Centre. However, there is a real and pressing need for strategic guidance to local government Branches and Regional Service Groups in particular on how to engage with councils – as the lead partner body – on LSP issues, especially around budgetary pressures and the procurement of service delivery mechanisms that will have massive implications for members in local government.

Conference calls on the Service Group Executive to:

1)produce timely and comprehensive guidance for Branches and Regional Service Groups on promoting engagement with local councils around LSP issues at a Branch and Regional level;

2)Develop a strategy on dealing with the break up of local services including detailed arguments that branches can use against the use of LSPs to further fragment local services

3)liaise with other Service Groups and Regions to develop guidance and protocols for campaigning and organising on a cross-Branch and cross-Service Group basis, to coordinate and maximise UNISON involvement in LSP’s; including links to work on Shared Services, Local Government Reorganisation and the Review of the Best Value Code, and engagement with partner Trade Unions as appropriate;

3)Campaign in all appropriate forums for the automatic right to Trade Union representation on all LSP bodies;

4)Work with Regions to establish a comprehensive database of local authority actions in relation to their lead role in LSP’s