Select Committee on Public Administration Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Professor Chris Skelcher (University of Birmingham) and Dr. Helen Sullivan (University of the West of England) (PAP 70)



  There are no official statistics on public policy partnerships nor is there an annual publication which lists their types, numbers and other relevant details. Despite their increasing significance to the British system of government, this is a somewhat surprising. However it is not unexpected given the ad hoc manner in which partnerships have been created. The estimates of partnerships given below draw on our published and ongoing research1.


  The estimates below are concerned specifically with public policy partnerships. They bring together public sector organisations with community, voluntary or business stakeholders to shape or determine public policy, and in a number of cases to spend public money. They are now the accepted way in which central government policy is implemented at the regional and local level.

  It is important to note that our definition excludes public-private partnerships, since these are a form of contractual arrangement through which business constructs or runs public assets on behalf of government.


  Our data are drawn from two main sets of sources.

  The first sources are the reports of the Select Committee on Public Administration Report on Quangos2, the Regional Co-ordination Unit3 and the Chartered Institute for Public Finance and Accountancy4. Some bodies classed as `partnerships' in these studies do not fall within our definition and have been excluded from our calculations. Our second source is the ongoing tracking of partnership creation arising from scans of news sources and studies of two localities in England5.


  We estimate that there are some 5,500 individual partnership bodies at local or regional level stimulated or directly created by national government in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These cluster into almost 60 types of public policy partnerships which cover a wide range of activities from health improvement and regeneration to child development and rural transport.

  However this analysis is a significant underestimate for the following reasons:

    —  First, many partnerships created autonomously (ie without central government encouragement) by local councils, quangos or other local and regional bodies and therefore which are included in the above figures.

    —  Second, the scope of central government activity is so wide that we are not likely to have recorded all partnerships. Those we identified have an orientation towards the social agenda; there will be others in agricultural, defence or industrial policy.

    —  Third, forms of partnership are being announced or stimulated on a regular basis by government. The Rural White Paper, for example, promoted the development of strong and inclusive partnerships involving parish and town councils and other groups concerned with the rural economy, society and environment (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, 2001). In some areas these are likely to be included within the portfolio of local strategic partnerships, while in others separate collaborations may emerge.

    —  Finally, partnerships funded through European programmes are excluded because of the problems involved in identifying them (these include the district partnerships in Northern Ireland supported through the peace and reconciliation programme, objective 2 partnerships, and various other EU programmes).

  Taking these factors into account, there may well be twice as many partnerships at local and regional level as the 5,500 we estimate to have been created as a result of national government policy.


  Identifying the expenditure of partnerships is fraught with difficulties. Funding streams come from a variety of sources, and aggregate data is normally only available on central government spending allocated for specific types of partnership. We have been able to identify some £4.3 billion of expenditure by partnerships in 2001-02, of which three-quarters is provided by central government. This figure does not include matching funding and other support provided by partners nor spending from mainstream budgets which is influenced or controlled by partnerships (other than for Health Act partnerships) since data on these sources is not published in aggregate form. For example, Crime and Disorder Partnerships oversee and shape the crime-prevention spending of local councils, the police, voluntary organisations and other agencies. The impact of such partnerships will tend to be reflected in changes to the pattern of expenditure in mainstream budgets on, for example, street lighting, neighbourhood wardens and educational programmes and therefore not separately identifiable as crime reduction spending. Consequently a conservative estimate of total annual direct and indirect expenditure by public policy partnerships at the sub-national level would be some £15-20 billion pounds.

Members of Partnership Boards

  Each partnership will typically have a board or management committee. Assuming a conservative estimate of 10 members on each partnership board, this gives a figure of between 55,000 places on partnerships stimulated or required as a result of government policy. However these ignore partnerships which emerge in response to the specific needs of the locality. If we also assume, very conservatively, that each local authority in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales is involved in five locally-initiated partnerships, each with a board of 10 members, this produces a figure of some 20,000 board places. Overall, therefore, we can estimate with reasonable confidence that there are at least 75,000 board places on sub-national public policy partnerships in the UK. This compares with approximately 23,000 councillors and 60,000 members of local executive quangos6.


  The example of Nottingham illustrates the way in which partnerships have become integral to public service operations (table 1). There are 14 time-limited partnerships stimulated by government, to which must be added the various on-going arrangements and locally developed collaborations. This has a major impact on the city, both in terms of the scale of public investment, the demands for community participation and the transaction costs involved. Many of the partnerships are concentrated on a small number of wards, and some wards receive several overlapping partnerships—as might be expected from initiatives designed to address problems of disadvantage and social exclusion and to stimulate regeneration. Nottingham is by no means an exception. Similar patterns are found in each local authority area across the UK. However there will be a greater concentration of partnerships in localities which have a higher incidence of disadvantaged communities. The result is a complex mosaic of multi-agency collaboration spending considerable amounts of public money, topped up with in-kind contributions and leveraged funds.

Table 1: Partnerships in Nottingham
Name of partnership PeriodTotal public
funding within
funding expected

Time limited partnerships, including....
SRB 21996-0213.2 45.558.7
SRB 31997-034.5 4.89.3
SRB 41998-045.3 3.08.3
SRB 51999-0512.0 13.125.1
SRB 62000-068.8 14.923.7
Sure Start—North west Nottingham 2000-07/101.7 revenue;
1.3 capital
0.7 in kind3.7
Sure Start—St. Ann's2000-03 with
possible extension
1.0 revenue;
0.5 capital
0 1.5
EAZ1999-044.5 1.5 in cash
and kind
HAZ1999-028.0 08.0
URBAN1997-015.4 At least 5.410.8
New Deal for Communities2000-10 55.0055.0
Employment Zone2000 Subject to
possible extension
Phase Ten regeneration2000-05 12 capital plus
other resources
0 12
Crime Reduction1999-02 Bid into national
fund of £250m over
three years

On-going partnerships, including....
Local Strategic PartnershipConnexions Community Legal Service Partnership
Crime and Disorder PartnershipLocal Agenda 21 Drug Action Team

  Source: adapted from Nottingham CVS7


  1.  Sullivan, H. and C. Skelcher (2002) Working Across Boundaries: collaboration in public services, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan unpublished data from ESRC research project `Effective partnership and good governance' (R/000/23/9610) undertaken by Prof. Skelcher, Dr. Smith and Mr. Mathur at the University of Birmingham.

  2.  House of Commons (2001) Report of the Select Committee on Public Administration: Mapping the Quango State, HC 367, Session 2000-01 (London: The Stationary Office).

  3.  Regional Co-ordination Unit (

  4.  CIPFA (2001) The CJC Guide to Partnerships and Partnering (London: CIPFA)

  5.  Unpublished data from ESRC research project `Effective partnership and good governance' (R/000/23/9610) undertaken by Prof. Skelcher, Dr. Smith and Mr. Mathur at the University of Birmingham.

  6.  Skelcher, C. (1998) The Appointed State: quasi-governmental organisations and democracy, Buckingham: The Open University Press

  7.  Nottingham CVS (2001) Directory of Initiatives, (

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