Headlines: April 7th, 2003

A local government think tank is calling on the Chancellor of the Exchequer to deliver a Budget for Local Democracy when he makes his statement this week. The Local Government Information Unit has set out a number of measurers which it feels can lay the foundations for a renewal of local democracy in Britain.It wants to see a review of the current classification of all local authority borrowing as ‘public borrowing’, with a view to making it easier for councils to raise capital for such projects¬† as social housing regeneration. It is also calling¬† for Treasury support for changes in the balance between central and local funding of councils.

The Unit is also urging Gordon Brown to match the funding of all participating local authorities in a local government recruitment campaign, similar to the Government’s campaign on teacher recruitment and it wants legislation to create a level playing field between council borrowing and the Private Finance Initiative. Its other proposals include Treasury backing for a new dedicated resource to fund training and skills- building for councillors, and for a Public Service Bill to give financial recompense to employers in a new right to statutory paid leave for council duties.

Dennis Reed, LGIU Chief Executive, said: “Although the LGIU would not want the Chancellor to pre-empt some of the very important Government reviews currently in train on issues such as council tax reform, there are still steps that can be taken on April 9 to indicate Treasury support for reinvigorating democracy at its grassroots and boosting local services. We hope that the opportunity is not wasted.”

The LGIU’s recommendations follow its Commission on Local Governance, which reported last year and it is currently working on a more detailed set of proposals for a Public Service Bill.