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
"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:
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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