The Government’s modernisation agenda requires councils to be in touch with the people and give vision and leadership to their local communities. There will have to be substantial change if councils are to fulfil this role in relation to local businesses. This is the key finding of a study of council – business relationships commissioned by the Department for Environment Transport and Regions.The study found a generally low level of awareness by local businesses of their councils. 17% of businesses surveyed could not name their local council and 60% were unaware who held political control. There was a similarly low level of effort by councils to engage businesses. Less than half of councils have a strategy for developing partnership working and three quarters of councils do not evaluate their links with businesses.
The barriers to better partnership working were identified by councils as lack of staff time and the disinterest of business. The barriers for business are lack of staff time and limited relevance of the council’s activities. The report concludes that the real barrier is more to do with attitudes and it urges councils to develop a more business friendly culture.
Local Government Minister Hilary Armstrong has urged both councils and business to learn from the study findings and the good practice guidance that has been developed.