HC Deb 20 November 2001 vol 375 cc174-6
13. Mr. Ken Purchase (Wolverhampton, North-East)

What progress has been made with negotiating local public service agreements with English local authorities. [13564]

The Minister for Local Government (Mr. Nick Raynsford)

Negotiations were completed and agreements concluded with 20 local authorities during the pilot stage of the scheme. We are currently concluding negotiations with the first four authorities involved in the roll-out of the scheme to all top-tier local authorities. Negotiations have started with the next 12 authorities involved in the roll-out, and negotiating slots have been timetabled with a further 103 authorities, including Wolverhampton, over the next 18 months.

Mr. Purchase

I welcome my right hon. Friend's reply, but I draw his attention to the fact that despite the many more millions of pounds that have been ploughed into local authorities over recent years, many local authorities feel that much of the cash has been targeted and ring-fenced, with the effect that it has impeded rather than improved the good and efficient management of those authorities. Can my right hon. Friend tell us that the targets that he intends to set will assist the good management of local authorities, rather than constrain them unnecessarily with targeting and ring-fencing?

Mr. Raynsford

My hon. Friend makes a fair point. He will not have to wait too long for the publication of our local government White Paper, which will set out an ambitious and, I believe, welcome programme to reduce the number of constraints and controls on local government, to reduce the extent of ring-fencing, and to extend opportunities for freedom and flexibility for authorities to succeed. It is precisely that freedom and flexibility that has been so welcome among local authorities as part of the LPSA programme, which is why we are rolling it out throughout the country.