Book News: February 1st, 2005

The Local Government Association calls for a strengthening of local leadership in this new policy document. It argues that a ‘one size fits all’ approach to local government will not work, and calls for greater freedom for councils to determine, in consultation with local communities, what arrangements best suit local circumstances. The Association wants neighbourhood committees with real powers, a stronger local leadership role for council leaders and mayors, more inclusive processes for local decision-making and more training and support for the representative role of councillors.To give real meaning to local governance, the LGA calls for a major decentralisation to give councils real autonomy, as well as for key public services and agencies to be transferred to local democratic leadership, for a reform of local taxation, streamlined inspection and an equal partnership between local and central government.

Four ‘citizens tests’ of good local government are proposed for use in evaluating and comparing how well councils are governing: Transparency – so people can identify who is democratically accountable in which public body to act on their problems; Subsidiarity – so power is devolved to the most local level of government appropriate; Responsiveness – so decision-making is fast, effective and welcomes participation; and Equality and inclusiveness – so all citizens are given an equal opportunity to participate and have equal weight in the process.

The Association also urges the Government to extend the roll-out of Local Area Agreements, currently being piloted around the country. It believes they give councils the freedom they need to lead partnership working with other public bodies in a local area to join up spending and services in a way that best fits local needs.

The document is available at: