Book News: February 3rd, 2009

The evaluation of the Local Government Modernisation Agenda by Communities and Local Government includes an assessment of the impact on community leadership and stakeholder engagement of the 20-plus policies that followed the 1998 and 2001 white papers.

Local stakeholders expect leadership from the local authority but are concerned about that becoming dominant. Citizens differ in their views about local government’s performance as an effective community leader. Many believe that local government should be the community leader but consider either that it has insufficient power, that it is not competent, or that it has insufficient legitimacy to play this role.

Local authorities and their partners now have shared strategic frameworks for local governance. However it is not clear that they are robust enough to enable ‘hard decisions’ to be taken and conflict to be managed. Local authorities and their partners consider themselves better able to identify and deliver on priorities for the locality.

Elected members and frontline workers are seen by local stakeholders as key to exercising community leadership in formal governance arenas. Community leadership is exercised through various neighbourhood/area-based structures and processes. Local authorities also emphasise the ward level, eg allocating small budgets to ward level committees to deal with community concerns.

The main barriers to change that have been identified consistently throughout the evaluation include poor leadership of local authorities, this includes leaders and chief executives, unsupportive cultures and a lack of local capacity within organisations and individuals.

The State of Governance of Places is available from DCLG.