Headlines: July 2nd, 2003

Sir Jeremy Beecham, chair of the LGA, called on the Association’s annual conference to fight proposals to fragment local services by creating directly elected local bodies. He urged conference members to: “Go back to your town halls and prepare to fight”. He said that this midway stage of the parliamentary term is a critical time because national political parties are turning their thoughts to policies for the next election. He urged local councillors, as representatives and leaders of their communities, to stake their claim to shape policy.New localism with direct election is emerging as a trend with proposals from a number of Ministers. The separate bodies proposed include Foundation Hospital Trusts, Primary Care Trusts, Police Authorities, and possibly School Boards or Housing Trusts. Sir Jeremy said the danger in creating separate bodies with separate mandates would be a deepening of the silo mentality obstructing effective joint working over the complex cross cutting issues. Additionally, the capacity of local councils to mediate conflict and weigh priorities across a range of services would be diminished.

He called for a more ambitious second generation of local public service agreements between individual councils and government with more ambitious freedoms and flexibilities. There is also a need to ensure that partnerships at a local level have the ability to rally all the relevant players in the public, private and voluntary sectors and harness their resources behind a single strategy to meet local priorities.