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This briefing is prepared for the Communities and Local Government Committee of the House of Commons to provide an overview of the work and performance of the Department for Communities and Local Government in the financial year 2006-07 and subsequent months.

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The Department was established in May 2006, incorporating responsibilities from the former Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, the Home Office and the Department for Trade and Industry.

The Department’s priorities are ambitious and address difficult challenges that it cannot tackle alone. The Department is at its best when it works in partnership with its stakeholders to establish a clear strategy and implementation plan, based on robust evidence, and puts incentives in place for others to deliver it. Its programme to tackle homelessness and the neighbourhood renewal programme are good examples.

The Department is moving more in this direction, reducing the number of programmes managed in-house, reducing the number of one-off initiatives and diffuse spending streams and devolving more to Local Government through Local Area Agreements. This presents the Department with the opportunity to concentrate on what it does best, but presents it with the major challenges of redefining its whole relationship with Local Government and developing new ways of working.

2006-07 saw the Department support major reviews of the Planning System, Housing, Equalities and more. These will help it to understand the complex policy levers it must use. The Department’s response to its Capability Review aims to increase its internal analytical function and ensure that all its delivery models are based on robust evidence.

The Department’s Capability Review and the recent Thames Gateway Public Accounts Committee hearing highlighted the fact that the Department has yet to gain the strategic influence it needs across Whitehall.