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Partnerships have been advanced as a key mechanism for the development of strong and prosperous communities in all parts of England. The various manifestations of the Local Government Modernisation Agenda have recognised the role of local partnerships as a key element in engaging with local communities, setting priorities and allocating funding accordingly. This latter activity has tended to dominate such local level partnerships because of the significance of obtaining funding from the myriad of central and local government funds available – and available not just through local government but from the local arms of central government, and agencies, and potentially also from business, commerce and charities.

LSP type arrangements have become a crucial organisational form for delivering success in these local government and community oriented initiatives. The more fluid set of structures and relationships have to some extent remedied the deficiencies of more traditional, large, and bureaucratic ‘silos’. In achieving this they have been instrumental in bringing together at local level the different parts of the public sector, as well as private, business, community and voluntary sectors, to frame and deliver innovative initiatives which have proved to be beyond single organisations. Positioned at a level that enables them to mount local strategic responses within top down standardised efficiency-oriented policies, they have also been close enough to the grassroots to foster and mobilise the direct community engagement needed for sustaining success.

The leaders in such partnerships therefore have demanding roles. Collectively they need to present a view on the needs of their communities and the priorities they should set. Collectively they need to manage within the rules for the disposition of public monies and also blend this with other sources – such as business and charities – that may also have their own rules or covenants. Collectively they need to maintain a strategic vision, and this vision also needs to align with and influence other major players in the community such as those responsible for police, fire, health, education, the culture and sports. Individually they also need to represent and influence their own constituencies.

Taken together these emphasise the unique and complex skills required by leaders in partnerships to facilitate the energy and inspiration of local people and ensuring that necessary bureaucratic process is followed but is not allowed to dominate.