Wider community engagement in governance is frequently argued, across the political spectrum, to be vital to improving public services and tackling the 'democratic deficit'. However, involving everyone in the decision process is seen as rather inefficient and unnecessary and will precipitate conflicts and delays in approving needed reforms…
It is actually a fuzzy spectrum of activities. People may engage at different depths, in different parts of the spectrum, at various times in their life. The easier it becomes for people to become involved, and, crucially, to disengage at personal need, the more likely they are to feel able to act. It is this principle which operates behind local partnerships - to enable the person to become engaged and become empowered without having too much burden to bear.
Local partnerships have been established particularly in the United Kingdom and in Poland which is the focus of this study. In this paper, I will be determining whether local partnerships are effective in empowering the community. I will be looking at how the Local Strategic Partnership (LSP) of the United Kingdom and the Local Initiatives Program (LIP) of Poland have fared in the years of its implementation. In the end, I will be arriving at some conclusions about whether local partnerships deserve a place in public governance.
In the UK, community involvement has been integrated in public governance. It finds expression in the so called Local Strategic Partnerships (LSP) which is non-statutory, multi-agency partnerships that match local authority boundaries. LSP's bring together at a local level the different parts of the public, private, community and voluntary sectors allowing different initiatives and services to support one another so that they can work together more effectively. (ODPM, 2004, 2006)
Lack of joint working at local level has been one of the key reasons why there has been little progress in delivering sustainable economic, social and physical regeneration, or improved public services, that meet the needs of local communities. Ideally, a combination of organisations and the community working co-operatively as part of an LSP will have a far greater chance of success. To achieve these improvements, the Government, local authorities and other service providers must work co-operatively, change the ways they work, reallocate resources and 'bend' their mainstream programmes to tackle issues that really matter to local people.(Orton, 2004)
LSPs have the aim of bringing about widening involvement in governance. LSPs are a long way from uniform institutions. Their history, composition and working arrangements vary enormously. The 'board' of an LSP may include anything from 12 people to more than 60. Board members may be nominated by sub-groups or partner organisations, or invited by the board, or recruited through public appointment processes, or elected by community forums. I
LSPs were introduced by the Government as a means of improving inclusion in the development of priorities for service provision on a local level as well as in its continuing governance. In its 2002 report 'We Can Work it Out' the Local Government Association said that
LSP's have been established to support localities in their attempts to work together more coherently in the pursuit of community wellbeing and good governance by providing a single strategic focus within a locality. (Local government Association)
Hillary Armstrong wrote in the DETR Local Strategic Partnerships Consultation Document of October 2000:
We do not want to start ...
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