Although not all of the demonstration authorities established a formal steering or management group, such groups can be seen with hindsight as a key part of the improvement plan process, enabling all those involved in the improvement plan to come together to exchange information and ideas, and to review, coordinate and monitor overall progress. The existence of a group will also help to reinforce the status and importance of the improvement plan within the authority, especially if it is chaired by a senior officer, and to break-down the isolation that the ROWIP officer might otherwise be working in.
A variety of arrangements were adopted in practice. For example:
Hampshire and Nottinghamshire both had two groups; one meeting regularly to steer the project and review and discuss progress in detail, the other meeting on an occasional basis and taking a more strategic overview.
Hampshire's two groups were both small; the ROWIP Working Group being limited to the staff directly involved with the improvement plan, and the Management Group having just three additional members (the Chair of the LAF, the Councillor responsible for the ROWIP and an officer of the Countryside Agency). In contrast, the parallel ROWIP Pilot Steering Group in Nottinghamshire has a membership of 10, including the Transportation Officer responsible for the LTP, the district council's local plan officers, the RA County Footpath Secretary and BHS County Bridleways Officer. Similarly, the county's Stakeholder Group has a wider membership of around 25.
Cheshire set up a single, relatively small Project Steering Group. This comprises the five staff directly concerned with the improvement plan, two LAF members (one a County Councillor) and an officer of the Countryside Agency.
In Bedfordshire no formal meetings were held but the ROWIP officer set up a "virtual" steering group which met on a continuous basis by the exchange of e-mails. This was only partially successful as the group lacked the discipline imposed by regular, timetabled meetings. It also lacked the status and authority that a senior officer would have conferred by chairing the group.
Northumberland and Dorset were among the authorities that took a conscious decision not to set up a steering group (to avoid 'steering group overload' and, in Dorset, to reflect the authority's more flexible, one-to-one methods of working). However both authorities now say that, if starting again, they would reconsider this decision.