Headlines: January 23rd, 2003

The independent think-tank, the New Local Government Network, today launches a survey designed to measure variations in public opinion across the UK on a range of issues affecting the quality of people’s lives and their views on the way services are delivered.The ‘Localism Index’ – a specially commissioned survey of 2000 adults – will be launched at NLGN’s first annual conference. Its ultimate aim is to compare national government priorities with those of the public generally on issues seen as integral to the emerging localism agenda.

NLGN Head of Research, Warren Hatter, said new localism was about freeing local agencies to act in ways they believed would improve the quality of life in their areas. “In taking the debate beyond politicians and policy wonks, like ourselves, NLGN is attempting to gauge what new localism means to the UK public. Our hope is that the survey will flag up a set of public priorities to guide policy makers in central and local government,” he said.

To challenge politicians and policy-makers to take account of public views, the survey will investigate topics such as how well people feel that their local council understands local priorities, the relevance of government targets to local concerns and how people would like their local council to use its powers of well-being.

When the initial findings are published, NLGN hopes the Localism Index will establish a baseline against which to measure future achievements and to understand how people’s priorities are changing over time. “Ministers and their advisors hoping to hitch a lift on what has become the latest political bandwagon can rest assured it’s not going to be the smoothest of journeys,” warned Mr. Hatter.

Delegates to today’s conference will hear a keynote address from Paul Boateng, Chief Secretary to the Treasury and can also witness a party political debate on the issue ‘Is New Localism Left or Right Wing?’