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Local area agreements

Practical Commissioning's Jargon Buster explains the meaning of the term 'Local area agreements'.

This is the most important local government policy for practice-based commissioners to understand, as it is essentially the main agenda for the local authority.

A local area agreement is a contract between central and local government to deliver a set of agreed local priorities. LAAs are an attempt to move away from the mindset of ‘Whitehall knows best' and to allow local people to set local priorities and achieve them through joined-up strategies. And if a PBC group can tune in to what those priorities are they will find common ground with the local authority decision makers.

LAAs are currently broadly organised around four themes:

• children and young people

• safer and stronger communities

• healthier communities and older people

• prosperity and enterprise.

Each block has its own funding attached as a result of pooling together a number of existing funding streams into a single area-based grant budget. So not only are LAAs locally sensitive, they are also a means of getting local stakeholders to work together rather than each working in individual silos with their own separate pot of cash. LAAs were introduced as voluntary three-year agreements in 2005 and have now become statutory.

There is no greater priority for local authorities than achieving their LAAs. PBC groups that are familiar with the LAAs are more likely to succeed in joint commissioning and partnership working.