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Ls pmainreport

  1. 1. 1 Faculty of Social Sciences and Business Plymouth Business School Dr Gregory Borne ENHANCING DEVONS PARTNERSHIPS Introduction LSP’s are non-statutory, multi-agency bodies that operate at the local level and aim to bring together different parts of the public, private, community and voluntary sectors. LSP’s have been set up across England in recognition of a lack of joint-working at the local level and could provide a forum for early engagement with local communities in the planning process. The drive by national government to introduce Local Strategic Partnerships at the local level is representative of a broader policy for integrating the goals of sustainable development policy frameworks. What the following report will show is that in a relatively short space of time there have been substantial positive steps in the development of LSP’s that are capable of responding to community needs within Devon. However, in line with recent findings on LSP governance nationwide (ODPM 2006), there are substantial differences in the extent to which LSP’s can be said to have created a strong and sustainable governance structure within Devon. The report is organised into three main sections. Section One examines relevant LSP documentation. Section Two presents findings and recommendations based on the focus group sessions and incumbent materials. Section Three draws general themes from the overall study and relates Devon’s LSP’s to recent ODPM (2006) evaluation of LSP’s nationwide. This report draws together research conducted by the University of Plymouth on behalf of the Devon Improvement Programme (DIP). Five of Devons LSP’s were considered. ● South Hams District Council ● North Devon ● West Devon
  2. 2. 2 ● Torbay ● Exeter Research Methodology As already discussed the research used a number of techniques in order to better understand the nature of Devon’s LSP’s. The research combined a desktop document study with in-depth qualitative analysis based on focus group sessions. The research was conducted in three main stages . Firstly, LSP’s provided the research team with all documentation that related to their LSP. Following the completion of the desk top document analysis focus groups were conducted. This involved discussions focused on six broad themes and the completion of two questionnaires. The first a ‘partnership health check’, and the second a ‘categorisation’ of LSP’s. SECTION ONE Documentation Review The purpose of the documentary review was to ascertain the clarity of the documentation for an LSP. As with any major partnership agreement, having clarity of purpose provides all parties concerned with a sense of direction, so as to enable them to achieve the stated aims and objectives of the partnership. The key elements of our review are as follows ● Clarity of purpose ● Documents fit for purpose ● Plain English ● They enable people to be held to account ● The existence of Key documents In making its judgement on LSP documentation the Project Team reflected on the checklist provided via the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister’s website. It became very obvious in analysing the documentation from various LSP’s that there was a core of documents which all LSP’s should have in place. The following list reflects the documentation provided in relation to the Exeter City LSP: ● Terms of Reference/ Values, Aims and Objectives ● List of Members and Responsibilities (current structures April 2005) ● Community Strategy ● High Level Project Plan ● Demographic Data ● Budget/Financial Details ● Thematic Groups ● Accountability Process ● Lineages Conducting the documentary review exercise prior to conducting LSP Focus
  3. 3. 3 Groups enabled a contextual understanding of the values, aims and objectives of the LSP’s. The quality and quantity of the documentation varied considerably across the various LSP’s. Strengths and weaknesses were evident in differing degrees in each of the document areas provided. Generally the impression of the documentation was good. For the most part literature was comprehensive, transparent and effectively structured. Overall, there was evidence that LSP’s had effectively considered the composition and goals of their LSP’s. However, the three following general observations should be borne in mind for future consideration. Firstly, the certain types of documentation for each LSP should be consistent, in its aspirations, operational programme, and subsequent monitoring framework. With consistency achieved at this stage of LSP development, the subsequent integration of the complex issues entailed with the formation of an LSP can be considered. Secondly, with point one in mind, documentation should be realistic in its overall goals. Documentation needs to reflect the reality of each partnerships ability to contribute to the overall structure of the LSP. With this achieved the eventual development of the LSP will evolve in an environment of full partnership awareness. Finally, documentation needs to incorporate an element of flexibility into its framework. Whilst it is essential to establish (realistic) goals and propositions at this stage of LSP formation, this should be balanced with flexible targets and the establishment of parameters as opposed to definitive statements. The three themes of, consistency, realism and flexibility will be shown to run throughout the assessment of LSP’s in Devon. Moreover, after consultation of an extensive analysis of LSP’s (ODPM 2006) these themes are recognised as being present at the national scale. This will be further discussed in chapter three. The following section, moves away from the static documentation analysis to explore findings from the focus groups and related material. SECTION TWO Focus Group and Health Check Facilitation Process The Focus Group process started with each participant individually and confidentially completing a questionnaire that asked to judge their perceptions of various partnership issues from the perspective of the constituent partners and the community-at-large (see appendix 1). Questions posed in the focus group were expansions on the six primary themes contained in the health check questionnaire. The following will present overall results from both the focus group and the questionnaire. Initially findings from the health check introduce the theme, which is followed by the relevant focus group questions. Within each theme suggested actions for the improvement of LSP working are included. 1. Recognise and Accept the Need for Partnership. To varying degrees there was a general consensus among the partnerships that there was a need for LSP’s. It was agreed that working in partnership
  4. 4. 4 would produce a more reactive and efficient governance structure capable of responding to the needs of community groups. It was considered advantageous to provide a forum around which the private sector, the public sector and the voluntary areas could come together to discuss efficiency saving measures with the ultimate goal of improving community service provision. It was recognised however that whilst partnership working was necessary it also presented some initial problems for achieving goals through partnership forums. These included diversity in vision among partners and differentiated resource accessibility. Such a recognition should be seen as a positive step in the development of LSP’s Q. Is there a need for a partnership? Responses from the focus groups supported the above observation 2.Develop Clarity and Realism of Purpose. Health checks indicated that there were mixed responses to whether clarity and realism of purpose actually existed amongst the partners. There was also some ambiguity over whether partnerships had a clear vision, shared values and had agreed principle services. Q. Do you consider the partnerships purpose to be clear? There was a mixed response as to the initial clarity and realism of purpose of each LSP. This is an emotive topic as it emerged that clarity and realism of purpose are not necessarily synonymous. It became evident that whilst each individual member of the partnerships had a vision of their role in the partnership process, upon interaction with the LSP as whole, roles responsibilities and objectives became convoluted. Focus groups raised issues of the lack of specifics with respect to LSP’s role. Themes on this topic that were particularly prevalent concerned linking community to government policy, linking communities to communities, and adding value beyond just the outcomes from one organisation. Within the focus group sessions individual members were in agreement that the process of focus group participation developed a deeper understanding of what their role was in the overall running of the LSP. The transition to a realism of purpose within the LSP is an essential part of the successful development of an LSP as a tool for creating sustainable communities. Suggested Actions ● To implement a review of the partnership roles and responsibilities, and to ensure that the outcomes of this review are disseminated to all partners of the LSP ● To gain further understanding of how the various partnership
  5. 5. 5 groups/processes impinge or support the role and function of a district 3. Ensure Commitment and Ownership. It was comprehensively agreed that there was an overall commitment and ownership of the LSP’s by it members. Particularly, it emerged that LSP’s partnerships placed great value on engaging individuals with strong leadership and networking skills that are capable of internalising the broad range of issues reflected in the LSP framework. Controversy within the majority of LSP’s arose when considering whether commitment and ownership would be encouraged by rewards and sanctions. Q. Do you consider that the members of the partnership and the community are involved in the partnership’s aims and objectives? There was a general consensus that the members of the LSP had a moderate to high involvement in establishing the overall aims and objectives of the partnerships. This was done so with the recognition that some partners contributed more than others. Considering the role of the community participants of the focus groups felt there was substantial gains to be made from heightening the level of involvement of community groups in the establishment of the LSP’s aims and objectives. This was tempered with the proviso that the interaction of community and partnership representatives should be achieved on a negotiate basis. Q. Do you consider that the members of the partnership and the community have been involved in designing the implementation/action plan? A variety of issues emerged in response to this question in the focus group process. Many LSP’s considered this to be an issue of ‘top down’ ‘bottom up’ governance, where it was felt that they were able to engender a range of opinion from the community as well as the partners involved. It was evident that the level of engagement of community or partner varied depending on the nature of the topic under discussion. Actions Required ● Timeframe for reviewing aims and objectives need to be determined ● Documentation of consultation process needs to be shared as best practice across the Devon Improvement Group Network ● To ensure that there is a process to measure all partners engagement and understanding of the aims and objectives of the LSP ● Revisit partnerships aims and objectives with a view to reprioritisation as a result of changing national and local demands ● Develop a deeper understanding of the role that community takes in creating an implementation/action plan ● Design, document and implement a system of monitoring the LSP’s action plans
  6. 6. 6 4. Develop and Maintain Trust. All LSP’s agreed that the development and maintenance of trust and transparency within the partnership structure was pivotal to achieving an effective governance forum. LSP’s were adamant that the maintenance of an open relationship within the LSP dynamic provided a foundation upon which effective community gains could be made. There was majority consensus that within the LSP each partner should be afforded equal status. Concerns were raised over the time scale available for the initiation and subsequent implementation of LSP working. 5. Create Robust and Clear Partnership Working Arrangements There was a general consensus that partnership workings were not always as simple and effective as they could be. And whilst there was agreement that partners responsibilities and accountabilities seemed to be clear there was often confusion over what financial and non financial resources are brought to the partnership by each partner. Overall, LSP’s confirmed that they considered that their partnerships principle focus was on process and outcomes rather than structures and inputs. Q. As individual members, are you clear on your position within the partnership? Whilst there was some descent, overwhelmingly LSP members indicated that they were clear about their role within the partnership dynamic. Actions Required ● To ensure that there is full understanding by all individual members of their roles and responsibilities within the partnership. 6. Monitor, Measure and Learn It was clear that across the board LSP’s did not rate their ability to self monitor and regulate highly. Moreover, it was agreed that where such monitoring activity did occur, subsequent findings were not adequately disseminated to the constituent partners. It was generally agreed that the partnerships aims objectives and working arrangements are widely recognised and revised in light of any monitoring activity that may occur. There was a consensus that any successes achieved by the LSP’s were not adequately publicised. Q. To what extent have members of the partnership and the community been involved in monitoring the partnerships implementation/action plan?
  7. 7. 7 There was diverse opinion on the extent to which the partnership and the community were involved in monitoring the LSP. Many LSP’s found that monitoring the work of the LSP’s presented problems and required direction and focus for the steering group. There was a high level of consensus that there needed to be an increase in community monitoring of the LSP’s progress. However, community involvement was seen as necessary after a structured working group had been established within the LSP context. Q. Do you use the current ‘best value performance’ (BVP) indicators to measure your partnership performance? There was a general feeling amongst LSP’s that ‘best value performance indicators’ were ineffective. It was felt that it was to early in the process to be specific about the performance level in relation to a developing project. LSP’s felt that BVP indicators did not provide them with a suitable performance horizon to target, as far as the achievements and milestones of LSP’s are concerned. LSP’s were concerned by community perception of BVP indicators suggesting a possible negative perception engendered by the application of unrealistic indicators. Q. Do you feel the indicators you are using, effectively measure the performance of your partnership? LSP’s indicated that they were not effectively using performance indicators to measure their progress. Various LSP’s suggested a number of reasons for this outcome. Running through all LSP’s however was the assertion that partnerships were not at the appropriate stage of development to accommodate a static set of performance indicators. Instead LSP’s were at a dynamic and highly mutable stage. It was however agreed that in a later stage of LSP development a definitive set of suitable indicators would need to be introduced. Actions Required ● To design, document and implement a system of monitoring of the LSP’s action plans. ● To engage all partners in the dissemination of the LSP’s action plans to the community at large ● To review the process for informing the community, and the system by which feedback is used to evaluate progress ● Evaluate the relevance and effectiveness of the current performance indicators for the LSP. ● Need to engage the community in the development of appropriate and effective performance indicators using both national and local criteria where relevant. ● Review action plans and establish a set of cross cutting key indicators (i.e. health, social care etc) which will provide the LSP with a sound
  8. 8. 8 and manageable monitoring process. ● Understand the specific performance requirements of each LSP ● Design, document an implement a performance management programme. ● Engage the community in the development of appropriate and effective performance indicators using both national and local criteria where relevant. Categorising Local Strategic Partnerships The research team presented the Focus Group with a set of LSP models that broadly categorise forms of LSP’s (see appendix 2). It was recognised that locating a particular LSP within the static boundaries of a single category is somewhat artificial, and that in fact many LSP’s occupy more than one ‘form’ of LSP as laid down by the ODPM. With this said however the following observations should be considered. Overwhelmingly LSP’s considered themselves to be of the Advisory model. In this model the LSP acts as a consultation and discussion forum and often forms the basis for consensus building, but has no independent power to act. It draws its accountability and legitimacy from member organisations, particularly the local authority. Summary Documentation and focus group material presented invaluable insights into the formation and early operations of Devon’s LSP’s. Whilst the qualitative focus group data (as with much qualitative data) showed some contradiction, on the whole very similar issues were raised amongst the LSP’s observed for this study. Section three will extrapolate some of the main tensions that were present in LSP operations. Moreover, by way of contextualisation section three will examine findings of broader nationwide evaluations of LSP processes. SECTION THREE LSP Overview Urban and Rural The research team found that there was a strong divide between those LSP’s that represented rural areas and those that were identified as being urban. It was found that the challenge of rural LSP’s was to negotiate ‘perforated boundaries’ with a need to negotiate overlapping jurisdiction. It is suggested that rural LSP’s have to devote some time to developing a cohesive structure and form a particular identity. In line with the ODPM (2006) therefore the research team identified the importance of the strategic capacity of the partners involved in the LSP. As has already been highlighted through the documentation review and the focus group activity, there must be initial clarifications of the membership roles and the overall purpose of the LSP. Whilst this also applied to those LSP’s located in urban environments, more defined boundaries act as a stabilizer in defining specific goals and targets. However, both urban and rural LSP’s must be considerate of governance
  9. 9. 9 tiers. County and district LSP’s must be understood as being complementary rather than conflicting. The relationship of these LSP’s should function on an egalitarian and not a hierarchical scale. The strategic economic, physical and social issues confronting LSP’s can only be dealt with effectively through a culture of cooperation (ODPM 2006). It was also recognised that tensions exist not only between LSP’s and membership jurisdiction, but also between national and local government structures. This resonates strongly with findings of the ODPM (2006). A National Perspective The recent study by the ODPM (2006) reinforces many of the points outlined in this report concerning Devon’s LSP’s. Due to its breadth, it also extends this analysis providing essential insights into the future development of successful LSP’s. The following will outline some relevant issues. Overall the report indicates that LSP’s on a national scale are dynamic governance entities that are incumbent of the many social, economic and political issues that represent governance processes. The ODPM distinguishes between two broad areas of partnership working. Firstly, Governance issues, and secondly, delivery issues. 1. Governance issues. Governance issues refer broadly to factors of leadership, representation and accountability. The leadership dimension focuses on the strategic capacity of the board or the executive in each partnership. It was found that leadership is a primary catalyst in the effective progression of LSP’s. It was also found that achieving an effective leadership is extremely challenging and suggests continued support for enhancing leadership capacity. In line with the University of Plymouth findings it was found that there has been substantial progress in ‘process rationalisation’ in terms of partnership coordination and better way of working within the partnership environment. However, the report draws attention to deficits in the processes of structural rationalisation and the operational capacity of LSP’s. Pivotal to this and again resonating strongly with Devon based LSP’s is the lack of systematic accountability within the LSP framework. This is the accountability of the LSP’s to ‘partners, and the accountability of partners to the LSP as well as wider public accountability’(ODPM 2006:5). Directly related to notions of accountability is capacity of the LSP’s. For example, to what extent is an LSP in a strategic position to resolve tensions that may exist in their local area? Tensions identified include those that exist between, conservation and development, competition and cohesion. It was suggested that more support is needed from both government and local partners. The ODPM (2006) highlights the ongoing debate that exists in how to measure the capacity of LSP’s. It emphasises the balance that must be achieved between enforced performance management systems versus the locally developed systems. There is a particular awareness that there is a need to implement performance indicators that do not produce over complicated bureaucratic systems that divert resources from real term
  10. 10. 10 efficiency goals. These governance issues identified at the national level were all visible in Devon’s LSP’s. 2. Delivery Goals The report highlights what it considers to be the primary drivers of LSP activity. These include national policies, community strategy and neighbourhood renewal. The report emphasises twenty six policy areas that LSP’s are charged with addressing. These include a diversity of issues ranging from crime to gender, in all areas the ODPM indicates that there have been some net gains. However, as with Devon’s LSP’s, due to the early development of the LSP process in general, the ODPM found it difficult to make substantive comments on delivery goals and outcomes. Accordingly, the report makes distinctions between process outcomes, governance outcomes and service outcomes. In line with Devon’s LSP’s it was found by the ODPM that significant steps had been made amongst LSP’s on a national scale concerning the process of partnership formation. As was found with Devon’s LSP’s elements such as information sharing and staff resources were seen to have been achieved to a high degree. The report found that there had also been some pooled funding of activities which also resonates with Devon’s LSP’s. The second theme of governance outcomes is defined as the development of a collective vision and agreed strategy; widening the range of interests involved in local decision making; creating stronger local voice; improving the perceived legitimacy of local governance and exercising more effective influence locally and nationally. In support of findings from Devon’s LSP’s the collective vision and co-ordinated strategy is the most clearly represented advantage of partnership working. The third area of service improvement was seen as the most difficult areas to quantify. It was found that outcomes attributed specifically to the LSP were difficult to quantify as independent gains. Importantly, it was discovered that those LSP’s which are not yet using some form of performance management seem to find it hardest to identify added value. A significant point raised by the ODPM report was the possible consequence of Local Area Agreements (LAA’s) on the LSP process. The issue for LSP’s is whether they have the capacity to engage effectively in the process of preparation and delivery of the LAA, or, whether they will be marginalised by the process. In this context many LSP’s consider that more support from government is neccessary (ODPM 2006). A particular concern of the report was that LAA’s might increase the focus on the most important issues at the expense of others seen locally as less important. With these issues in mind Devon’s LSP’s provided an opportunity for highlighting those issues most relevant to local communities, but alternatively the process could provide an opportunity for government to bring such neglected issues to the agenda. In summary, there is a close relationship between the development of Devon’s LSP’s and those nationally. LSP’s generally are in an early stage of
  11. 11. 11 development with the next stage moving away from a process orientated approach to one of implementation and delivery. The ODPM suggests that what is required (and what is currently absent) is a mainstreaming of programmes and targets which are agreed and shared by local partners, reflecting the pattern of local needs. The increasing importance of local government as a proximate and responsive device for improving local communities has recently been reinforced by Sir Michael Lyons in his latest report1 ‘National Prosperity, Local Choice and Civic Engagement : A New Partnership Between Central and Local Government for the 21st Century’ (Lyons 2006). By way of conclusion, Sir Lyons comments in the interim report are especially relevant: ‘An effective system of local government is essential to the promotion of general national interest, both in the provision of public services and in terms of the wider national prosperity, local choice and civic engagement, promotion of well-being, prosperity and competitiveness. We need a system which aligns the efforts of national and local government to achieve the common good, and embraces self-help and voluntary action among individuals and communities’ (Lyons 2006:1) Conclusions This report was presented in three main sections. Section One, focused on a review of the documentation where it was found that clarity of purpose exists, but that improvement can be made at this important stage of the LSP formation process. Section Two, examined focus group material organised around six primary themes identified as essential for understanding LSP operations. This section integrated results from the LSP health check, focus group sessions, and the identification of each LSP’s form. Section Three, drew out general themes that exist in the Devon partnerships, whilst extending this discussion to broader themes identified by the ODPM on a national scale. This study has identified strengths and weaknesses in the Devon LSP’s. It has focused on specific areas and made suggestions for improvement of the structure and process of LSP working. It outlines the complex and multifaceted nature of LSP working and has shown that similar issues exist on a countrywide scale. Thanks are extended to the members of the participating LSP’s for their co operation with the University of Plymouth Dr Gregory Borne
  12. 12. 12 References Department of Transport, (2006). National evaluation of Local Strategic Partnerships: Formulative Evaluation and Action Research Programme 2002- 2005. Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. DF1070Kb_id1163005.pdf Lyons, M., (2006) National Prosperity, Local Choice and Civic Engagement: A New partnership between central and local government for the 21st Century,