Headlines: July 7th, 1998

Local councils will try to persuade the Labour Government this week that they can rise to the challenge of running services efficiently, and involve more people in taking decisions about them.

National Questions, Local Answers is the theme of the four day Local Government Association (LGA) Conference in Bournemouth, starting today (Tuesday)

The conference will be addressed by the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition William Hague, and John Prescott, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

More than 1500 councillors and officers attending will be hoping to make a last minute impression on the format of the forthcoming White Paper on local government. It comes on the back of a pattern of low-turn out at local elections, criticism of councils for being out of touch with their communities, and after localised scandals over the way some councils have awarded contracts for work like refuse collection and grounds maintenance.

Despite this, local government has high hopes of the first major piece of legislation affecting local government in 20 years. The LGA, which provides a single voice for more than 500 different councils and authorities, is pressing for a bill giving councils more power to determine services and
allowing them to experiment with new types of decision-making.