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LIS-PUB-LIBS  February 2001

LIS-PUB-LIBS February 2001

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Subject:

Beacon Council Themes - libraries

From:

Stuart Brewer <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Stuart Brewer <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 15 Feb 2001 17:11:19 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

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One of the eleven themes listed in this forwarded press release
is "libraries as a community resource". More commentary is in
the Annex. (I have put *s by the refs to libraries).
------------------------------------------------------------------

 DETR 075 15 February 2001
 NEW BEACON COUNCIL THEMES ANNOUNCED

 Themes for round three of the Beacon Council Scheme were announced
 today by Local Government Minister Hilary Armstrong. The Beacon
 scheme aims to improve a wide range of public services which are
 central to people's day to day lives by sharing good practice.

 Councils will be able to apply for Beacon status in eleven new theme
 areas - ranging from supporting schools so that children make an
 effective transition between key stages, and *developing libraries as
 a community resource*, to promoting racial equality, crime reduction
 in rural areas and fostering business growth.

 Ms Armstrong said:

 "The Beacon Council Scheme is all about driving up the standard of
 council services for everyone. The eleven themes cover a broad range
 of issues and give councils, regardless of their size or location,
 even more opportunities to participate in the scheme and share in
 best practice.

 "We have had a tremendous response to the Beacon scheme. Over two
 years there have been 442 applications and 76 beacon awards.
 Councils will soon begin learning from the 43 awards which we
 announced on 6 February."

 Up to 50 councils will be awarded beacon status in the eleven service
 areas selected for the third year of the scheme. Ministers will be
 looking to appoint beacons in the following areas:

 adoption
 community legal services
 crime reduction in rural areas
 enhancing access and mobility
 fostering business growth
 improving urban green spaces
 *libraries as a community resource*
 neighbourhood renewal (in urban and rural areas)
 promoting racial equality
 tackling fuel poverty - affordable warmth through energy efficiency
 transition between key stages in schools

 Ms Armstrong said:

 "The new themes are based on the recommendations of the Advisory
 Panel on Beacon Councils who consulted councils and others
 interested in excellent local services. They reflect the wide range
 of responsibilities councils have and the many ways in which they
 can improve the quality of life of local people."

 Councils will be invited to apply for beacon status in May. Selection
 will take place between July and December, and the successful
 councils announced early next year. They will hold beacon status
 until March 2003.

 A conference, organised by DETR, takes place next Tuesday to give
 potential third year beacons the opportunity to talk to first and
 second year beacons, as well as the Advisory Panel to find out how
 to submit a successful application.

 NOTES FOR EDITORS

 1. The Beacon Council Scheme was established in 1999 by the
 Government to select a number of councils to act as pace setters and
 centres of excellence. The Government has appointed an independent
 advisory panel to make recommendations to ministers on the themes,
 selection criteria and the selection of beacon councils each year.

 2. The Report of the Advisory Panel on Beacon Councils:
 Recommendations to Ministers on Themes for Year 3 (Product code
 00LG1145) is available from:

 Department of Environment Transport and the Regions
 PO Box 236
 Wetherby
 West Yorkshire
 LS23 7NB

 3. Ministers have considered the recommendations of the Advisory
 Panel on themes for year three and have endorsed the majority of
 them. Ministers decided to include additional themes on improving
 urban green spaces and transition from key stages which links in
 with the Government's priorities and with issues on which good
 practice is likely to be available in the third year. Lifelong
 learning, services for older people, streetworks, promoting healthy
 communities, delivering effective social services and anti-social
 behaviour will be considered as part of the panel's consultation on
 Year 4 themes.

 4. Specialist panel members for each of the beacon themes will
 shortly be appointed to the Advisory Panel on Beacon Councils. The
 panel will then make recommendations to Ministers on criteria for
 beacon status under each of the themes. Ministers will make a final
 selection of Beacon councils based on the advice of the panel.

 ANNEX A

 ADOPTION

 Local councils are responsible for finding a secure, loving family to
 meet the needs of children who cannot live with their birth parents.
 Most adopted children do better on all measures - social,
 developmental, educational - than children who stay in the care
 system until they are 16. And the younger a child is when adopted,
 the better the outcome.

 On 21 December last year, the Government published the White Paper
 Adoption: a new approach. This sets out plans for the most radical
 reform of adoption law for 25 years, together with comprehensive
 reforms for the whole adoption process. These include a new Public
 Service Agreement target to increase by 40% (and, if possible, 50%)
 the number of looked after children adopted by 2004/05, and an
 Adoption and Permanence Taskforce to help councils improve their
 performance and spread best practice. Some councils already perform
 well, and place a high number of looked after children with new
 adoptive families, but there is huge variation across the country.
 This theme will help weaker councils to follow the lead of
 trailblazer councils, ensuring that children do not drift in care.
 In addition, it will build on the theme of caring for vulnerable
 groups (care leavers and children in foster care), which has
 featured in the first two years of the Beacon scheme.

 COMMUNITY LEGAL SERVICES

 Lack of access to good quality advice services has meant that many
 people have suffered because they have been unable to enforce their
 legal rights effectively or have been unaware of their rights and
 responsibilities in the first place. The Community Legal Service
 aims to address these problems by encouraging the development of
 local networks of legal and advice services, based on local needs
 and priorities, and supported by local partnerships. The networks
 will deal with legal problems which most affect people's lives, such
 as housing, debt, employment, welfare benefits, community care,
 discrimination, immigration, mental health, and consumer disputes.
 Councils are among the biggest funders and providers of advice
 services, and they can maximise benefits through partnership working
 with others in Community Legal Service Partnerships.

 This theme will help councils and their local partners to provide
 services in more efficient, innovative ways such as through using
 IT, setting up outreach services, or creating specialised advice
 services to meet local needs.

 CRIME REDUCTION IN RURAL AREAS

 Rural areas face in the main much the same sort of crime as urban and
 inner city areas, including burglaries, thefts of and from cars,
 violence and drug offences. However there are also crimes peculiar
 to the countryside, such as thefts of livestock and farm equipment,
 wildlife crime and mass trespass. Although evidence from the British
 Crime Survey shows that levels of general crime, and the levels of
 fear of crime, are significantly lower in rural than in urban areas
 and have been declining more, the threat of crime felt by rural
 communities is still very real. Greater isolation, personal
 experience and publicised cases can all add to this, and in some
 areas and for some individuals, the specific rural crimes can pose
 particular and serious problems.

 Local councils have a key role to play working in partnership with
 the police and others in the community to ensure a comprehensive,
 consistent and properly co-ordinated approach. The Crime and
 Disorder Act 1998 places a statutory duty on County and District
 Councils and on the police to work together to audit local crime and
 disorder problems and devise strategies to address them in
 partnership with other statutory agencies and with non-statutory
 bodies. Councils must exercise all their functions with regard to
 the likely effect on crime and disorder. Councils can address
 particular rural concerns by such means as the promotion of "Watch"
 schemes, the use of CCTV, the employment of neighbourhood wardens,
 and better provision for young people. This theme will help tackle
 an issue of significant concern for rural communities.

 ENHANCING ACCESS AND MOBILITY

 Councils have a key role to play in enhancing access to jobs and
 services for their communities through greater mobility. This is
 fundamental to the development of integrated transport policies.
 There are two main aspects. Planning policies have a significant
 effect on the location of services and can help reduce the need to
 travel. However, for many people improved mobility is a
 pre-requisite for their employment and for their access to essential
 services and facilities. The theme will concentrate on the work that
 councils have done to facilitate improved access and mobility to meet
 the needs of all citizens - including especially those living in
 deprived or sparsely populated areas as well as groups with specific
 needs (such as those seeking employment, women, families with young
 children, the elderly, and disabled people).

 In partnership with other councils, transport operators and community
 groups and with others in the public and private sectors, local
 authorities have a key role, not least through the local transport
 planning process, in planning and co-ordinating action to improve
 access and mobility and in facilitating and in some cases providing
 services. The theme will be applicable to both urban and rural
 areas.

 FOSTERING BUSINESS GROWTH

 Councils significantly determine the environment small firms operate
 in at the local level. Issues such as local planning guidance,
 access to commercial properties and e-commerce are essential in
 creating an environment where small firms can flourish. Small and
 Medium sized Enterprises can play a critical role in the economic
 development of deprived urban and rural areas. Councils have a
 positive role to play working in partnership with the business
 community and organisations such as the Small Business Service.
 They can provide significant help in streamlining regeneration funds
 and access to financial assistance, incubators, managed workspace
 and micro business development.

 This theme supports the Local Government Act 2000, which places a
 duty upon councils to prepare a Community Strategy that promotes
 economic, social and environmental well-being. It also builds upon
 the recent publication of the Urban and Rural White Papers, and the
 launch of the National Neighbourhood Strategy.

 IMPROVING URBAN GREEN SPACES

 The state of our parks and green spaces is emblematic of the health
 and vitality of our urban areas. Over the last few decades a
 significant amount of green spaces within urban areas have been lost
 to development. Too many of the green spaces and play areas that are
 left have been neglected and poorly maintained. In 1999, the House of
 Commons Environment Select Committee's report on urban parks
 expressed concerns about a steady decline in standards of managing
 and maintaining urban parks, and a loss of professional skills and
 good practice.

 The Government attaches a great deal of importance to the
 contribution of green spaces in improving the quality of local
 communities and quality of life in urban areas. Good quality green
 spaces generate enormous social, economic, environmental and
 ecological benefits. The recently published Urban White Paper "Our
 Towns and Cities: The Future" announced that a Government Minister
 would be given specific responsibility for developing the
 Government's vision and policies for the sort of parks, play areas
 and open spaces that should be created in the future and how they
 should be managed. The "Urban Green Spaces Taskforce", which is
 chaired by the Minister, was set up on 29 January to advise on
 carrying forward the initiative.

 Beacon council status will play a vital role in establishing and
 promoting quality service standards, and providing a valuable
 incentive for local authorities, professionals, local business and
 resident communities to work closer together to raise the standard of
 management and care of local green spaces. It will also help to
 ensure that the positive contribution of well maintained green
 spaces make to enhancing the quality of all of our lives are better
 valued and appreciated.

 ** LIBRARIES AS A COMMUNITY RESOURCE

 The public library service has an important role to play in fostering
 community development, promoting community identity and developing
 social inclusion. Public libraries offer nearly 4,000 separate free
 public access points, spread fairly evenly across the country, where
 the environment is welcoming and stimulating.

 The public library service is and will remain one of the best
 developed community resources. It provides an essential link
 between the needs of the local communities they serve and the
 outside world. By providing community services such as homework
 clubs, information on community history and identity and by acting
 as a meeting place for community groups, public libraries can
 develop this significant role. Many councils are looking to develop
 libraries as one-stop shops providing a range of local authority
 services either face-to-face or electronically. Others are providing
 mobile libraries to ensure all citizens have access to the service.

 Libraries do not need to be just repositories for books and
 information but can be the hub of community life offering access to
 local authority services and a meeting place for all. This theme
 will help councils promote community identity and combat social
 exclusion and is applicable to both urban and rural areas.

 NEIGHBOURHOOD RENEWAL IN URBAN AND RURAL AREAS

 Through the services they provide and partnerships with others, local
 authorities have a key role to play in tackling issues as diverse as
 unemployment, crime, ill-health, poor housing and low educational
 attainment to bring about neighbourhood renewal. These issues
 affect both urban and rural communities, and require different
 solutions.

 From April 2001, the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund will provide #900
 million extra resources to local authorities in the most deprived
 areas over three years. The relevant local authorities are being
 asked to commit to a Local Strategic Partnership and the Government
 will shortly issue revised guidance on how such partnerships could
 operate. These partnerships will build on the duty of community
 planning and existing partnerships. They will bring together
 mainstream service providers (such as local authorities, health
 authorities and the police service), the voluntary sector and
 community groups to work together to address the problems
 experienced by deprived neighbourhoods in their area.

 The neighbourhood renewal theme provides a timely opportunity to
 identify those councils who have made a real difference to the lives
 of people who live and work in disadvantaged neighbourhoods in both
 urban and rural areas. It will enable councils across the country to
 build on their experience as they develop solutions to problems in
 their own areas.

 PROMOTING RACIAL EQUALITY

 The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report and the requirements of Best
 Value have highlighted the need for public authorities to tackle
 racism and unlawful discrimination and promote racial equality, to
 ensure that they are representative of the communities they serve
 and serve those communities better. Among other things, the Local
 Government Act 2000 places a positive duty on public authorities
 actively to promote racial equality. This will require them to work
 to avoid unlawful discrimination before it occurs and to promote
 equality of opportunity and good relations between persons of
 different racial groups. This general duty will be supported by
 specific duties which will be imposed by secondary legislation and
 which will set out in more detail action that public authorities
 need to take.

 This theme is not restricted to councils with large ethnic minority
 populations; the need to tackle racism effectively is as great where
 ethnic minority populations are small.

 TACKLING FUEL POVERTY - AFFORDABLE WARMTH THROUGH
 ENERGY EFFICIENCY

 Fuel poverty is an important local issue affecting people's
 well-being. Councils have a unique position in the community and
 are well placed to develop affordable warmth strategies to tackle
 this problem. By developing strategies based on improving the
 energy efficiency of homes, it is possible to provide a permanent
 solution to fuel poverty, as well as meet the longer term challenge
 of climate change.

 Local authorities are being urged to strengthen their involvement in
 this area; both through their own housing programmes; and by working
 with the Home Energy Efficiency Scheme, energy suppliers and others
 to ensure their communities benefit from all the help available.
 Action may include developing corporate approaches to tackle fuel
 poverty, integrating energy efficiency into investment, improvement
 and maintenance programmes, maximising the extent to which repair
 and maintenance work can incorporate energy efficiency measures, and
 providing advice to the community on sources of financial help
 available to them.

 TRANSITION BETWEEN KEY STAGES IN SCHOOLS

 Transition between different institutions and phases of education is
 always important. It is critical that, although children may move
 school, they do not experience a break in their education, or 'mark
 time'. For many children transition has caused a loss of momentum.
 Teachers have started with a 'clean slate' and set expectations lower
 than they should have been, so there has been a drop in pupils'
 attainment in the first year of their new school. This is
 particularly so between the last year of primary school and first
 year of secondary school. The education theme for the third year of
 the beacon council scheme provides councils with the opportunity to
 demonstrate that they have developed effective strategies which
 enable pupils to make these transitions without loss of pace or
 progression.

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