Abstracts: July 7th, 2005

This report published jointly by the Audit Commission and the Improvement and
Development Agency sets out the tough choices now facing local government on a
range of governance, operational and financial issues. It shows that
opportunities exist to make distinctive choices for their people and places they
serve. The existence of councils is rooted in understanding what their locality,
and the people and communities within it, specifically require. Without this
understanding they will deliver poorer solutions and ultimately risk seeing
their democratic legitimacy wither as they either fail or become no different
from non-democratic service delivery organisations.

Making truly local choices will result in councils doing things differently from
one another, organising themselves accordingly and being distinctive in their
public’s mind. But there is concern that local government is not making the most
of its new powers and opportunities. Despite the official emphasis on community
government, the visions and plans of different councils look strikingly alike.

The report argues that the time is ripe for councils to assert their own
strategic priorities, to review their organisational capacity to achieve key
goals, and to seize the initiative on behalf of the communities they serve.
Strategic choice and local difference is not just possible, it is also
necessary. Councils are urged to seize the responsibility of making strategic
choices on behalf of local communities, in the context of unique situations and
aspirations. This will lead to developing their own approach that fits their
circumstances and priorities and in creating their own unique ‘mix’.

The report is available at: