Headlines: May 13th, 1998

The research programme announced by Local Government Minister Hilary Armstrong is designed to support the Government’s modernisation agenda. The Best Value initiative is stimulating innovation across all areas of council activities and one of the key research projects will look at innovation and best practice. Although the Best Value pilot projects are being evaluated by a team from Warwick University there is a need to take an overall view to see what triggers new thinking and how ideas are taken from conception to implementation.A critical issue for local government is the apathy of the electorate which was underlined by the recent exceptionally low turnout in the local elections. Earlier research has shown that younger people tend to know less about their councils than their parents and grand parents and it is thought that lack of understanding about local government could be a factor inducing apathy. In a quest for hard evidence on this thinking a research project will explore citizens’ attitudes towards and knowledge of local government finance.

The research programme of 13 projects including legal and financial aspects of local government will cost £800m. Research organisations interested in tendering for projects should contact the Local Government Research Unit at Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, Room 5/B4, Eland House, Bressenden Place, London SW1E 5DU.