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Local strategic partnerships can't afford to ignore benefits of sustainable development

11 November 2008

New report argues that policy framework and long term benefits to communities make sustainable approach vital for forward-thinking LSPs

A new report published by the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) today, Tuesday 11 November, suggests that the new performance framework governing local authorities and their partners on local strategic partnerships (LSPs) reinforces the responsibility to deliver sustainable development to the point where it cannot be ignored.

It also highlights the potential and actual benefits gained by those local authorities and LSPs which are already adopting a sustainable development approach. These include saving money, improving the local economy, improved partnership working and more joined-up service delivery.

Local Decision Making and Sustainable Development argues that the different elements of the policy framework for local areas combine to create an overwhelming imperative for local authorities and LSPs to get to grips with sustainable development. These include:

  • Sustainable Community Strategies - required to be genuinely sustainable(1), with Local Area Agreement’s (LAAs) as their delivery plans
  • Plans for sustainable development to be ‘integral’ to the forthcoming Comprehensive Area Assessment(2)
  • A set of existing responsibilities for sustainable development to be at the heart of the local planning framework
  • Enabling powers such as the power of wellbeing and the Sustainable Communities Act

The combined impact and reach of the bodies represented on LSPs - spanning the public, private and voluntary sectors - means that LSPs have enormous potential to contribute to sustainable development. The report highlights the work that many LSPs are already doing, including Birmingham LSP, which has signed up to a Sustainable Procurement Compact to ensure that the combined spending power of the LSP partners - estimated at £6bn - is used to support local businesses and communities.

The report is the result of a year-long project involving a range of national, regional and local bodies looking at the steps needed for sustainable development to be embedded in local decision-making, focusing in particular on LSPs, Sustainable Community Strategies and LAAs. It sits alongside a collection of 11 good practice case studies to provide a practical resource for local authorities looking to make decisions which will benefit their communities in the long term.

Alice Owen, Commissioner for Local and Regional Government at the Sustainable Development Commission, said:

"The current economic situation has hit LSP partners hard, but this doesn’t negate the need to put sustainable development at the heart of their work. Far from it; increased pressure on funding and resources makes a long-term, integrated and sustainable view of decision-making even more vital than ever.

"Forward-thinking local authorities and LSPs will have noticed the extent to which sustainable development is now required of them under a host of different policy initiatives. The smart ones are already getting to grips with this - not just to get ahead of the game in policy terms, but to reap the benefits for communities, services, the economy and the environment."

The report also highlights current initiatives to support the LSPs in delivering sustainable development from a number of national and regional organisations, including Defra and CLG in Central Government, and the Audit Commission and improvement bodies. It also makes a number of recommendations about where further support is needed. These include:

  • The Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA) to consider mainstreaming sustainable development into specific work on the Climate Change Best Practice Programme, procurement and LSP leadership, as part of the capacity building work programmes. This should also apply to the new Regional Improvement and Efficiency Partnerships (RIEPs), as their potential contribution to achieving sustainable development could be massive, if prioritised from their inception
  • Government Offices to consider how they might support time and resource-poor LSPs and local authorities on delivering sustainable development
  • Support and improvement bodies to allocate more dedicated resources to support sustainable practitioners in local authorities, LSPs and LSP partner organisations

Local Decision-Making, and Sustainable Development is available to download, along with 11 good practice case studies.


Notes to editors

  • For more information or to set up interviews, contact Rhian Thomas on 020 7270 8539 / 07825 106 803 or e-mail rhian.thomas@sd-commission.org.uk
  • The Sustainable Development Commission, made up of 18 Commissioners and chaired by Jonathon Porritt, is the government’s independent advisor on sustainability issues
  • Sustainable Development and Local Decision Making draws together the SDC’s findings from a year-long project funded by Defra called Capability for Local Sustainability .The project brought together a range of stakeholders to explore ways to improve the capability of local authorities and their LSPs to deliver sustainable development. These included Defra, CLG, DCSF, DH, the Local Government Association, Improvement and Development Agency, the Academy for Sustainable Communities, Government Offices, the Audit Commission and a range of representatives from local authorities and LSPs. It also draws on findings a consultant report from CAG, which is also available for download at www.sd-commission.org.uk.
  1. HM Government statutory guidance, Creating Strong, Safe and Prosperous Communities, says that "to a greater extent than previously, sustainability should be at the heart" of the Sustainable Community Strategy, with the Local Area Agreement as its "shorter-term delivery mechanism."
  2. The CAA consultation paper, CAA: Joint Inspectorate Proposals for Consultation – Summer 2008, says that CAA "is inherently about sustainability" at that "sustainability considerations will be integral to the three overarching CAA questions."

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