Book News: October 25th, 2007

This report from Communities and Local Government describes how the structural changes made by councils in 2000 to enhance executive decision-making has led to more visible and effective leadership, faster decision-making and better public services.Most authorities, 81 per cent, opted for the leader cabinet system, 3% for mayoral systems and the remaining 59 smaller authorities, 15 percent, chose to maintain streamlined committee systems in alternative arrangements authorities.

Officers and stakeholders are more positive about the reforms than councillors, with well over half viewing the new arrangements as an improvement. Executive councillors are more positive than non-executive councillors and Labour councillors more positive than councillors from other parties.

The research findings show a consistent relationship between authorities with stable political leadership and authorities that have over a period of time given the full range of powers to their leaders. There has also been better service performance and greater citizen satisfaction. However the impact of the changes to citizen’s sense of trust in local government or electoral turnout have been limited.

The changes have made some positive contributions towards democratic renewal, for example through better visibility of portfolio holders, especially mayors. Although there are examples of innovative practice regarding community leadership and public involvement, there is less agreement that these features have been successfully developed.

Research also revealed that the scrutiny function, although underdeveloped, is improving from a low base.

The report is available at: