It’s official. With effect from January 2009 I am a LIA. This most unfortunate term stands for “Local Improvement Advisor” and I’m only sorry that whoever first coined it didn’t consider the acronym more carefully. LIA’s are a group of specialists from a range of disciplines available as a resource to partnerships to help drive up improvement and efficiency. The LIA programme aims to capture the good practice from the well evaluated Neighbourhood Renewal Advisor (NRA) programme hosted by the Department of Communities and Local Government which came to an end in December 2008. I was an NRA from 2002 and during that period carried out over 50 assignments working with LSPs, NDCs and Community Empowerment Networks across the country. Last week, the first tranche of LIAs (almost 100 of us) met for the first time in Birmingham. Whilst it was great to renew acquaintances with some old NRA colleagues,(unflatteringly referred to ‘the old hacks’) it was refreshing to meet so many new faces and realise the breadth of skills and experiences available to the programme.
The scheme is centred on the needs of local partnerships; primarily LSPs but including regional partnerships, children’s trusts, New Deal for Communities programmes (NDCs) and neighbourhood management boards, amongst others. The principle focus of the programme is the Local Area Agreement (LAA) with support available to assist with design and delivery. To access a LIA, the partnership first discusses its development needs with the RIEP (Regional Improvement and Efficiency Partnership) who will assist with putting together a brief. The brief is then brought to the attention of the appropriate LIAs who can then express an interest. The partnership can access profiles of the LIAs through a website to inform their eventual selection. The LIA’s fee is then picked up by the RIEP on the satisfactory completion of the assignment.
There are still some operational details to iron out, but I couldn’t help but be impressed by the high calibre of advisors the scheme has attracted. We were all less than happy with our new title though and are optimistic that one suggestion will be picked up: that we become ALIs (Advisors for Local Improvement) which not only sounds very cosmopolitan, but also sounds like “allies” which we thought was very appropriate. Still, what’s in a name?