Assembly Gives Local Authorities Rein to Improve People's Lives; POLICY: Targets Agreed for Improvement in Education, Social Care, Environment and Transport

Article excerpt

Byline: TOBY MASON

IN A radical approach to government, the Assembly Government and local authorities in Wales have agreed targets for real improvement in education, social care, the environment and transport, it was announced yesterday.

The Minister for Finance, Local Government and Communities Edwina Hart yesterday met the Presiding Officer of the Welsh Local Government Association and Leader of Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council, Noel Crowley, to mark this achievement.

Ms Hart said, "I have now agreed the terms of policy agreements with all 22 local authorities in Wales.

"These agreements are an innovation unique to Wales and a completely new way of improving the quality of people's lives.

"The agreements focus on what results local councils are aiming to achieve in key areas while giving councils themselves more freedom to determine the best way of achieving them.

"These agreements make a firm commitment to better education for all, better social care services and more environmentally friendly transport and waste management.

"This is part of the devolution dividend in which we take advantage of the particular circumstances of Wales. Having a national government and 22 local authorities allows a sharing of objectives which would not be possible elsewhere in the UK."

Mrs Hart outlined key targets agreed with local government, which will mean that:

The proportion of eleven-yearolds achieving at least Level 4 in the Core Subject Indicator will rise from 62pc today to 67pc by 2004;

The proportion of 15-year-olds achieving 5 or more A* to C (or their vocational equivalents) will rise from 49pc to 54pc by 2004;

Fewer children will leave full time education without qualifications;

No child "looked after" by the local authority and no child on the child protection register will be without an allocated social worker who is providing a service appropriate to the child's need, and no child in care on their 16th birthday will be without a suitable plan for their continuing care;

More people with physical disabilities, mental health problems or learning disabilities will be helped to live at home;

Care for elderly people will reflect a better balance between care to enable them to live independently at home and residential or nursing care;

The proportion of household waste recycled or composted will rise from 7pc today to 16pc by 2004. …