Headlines: September 23rd, 2003

The independent think-tank the New Local Government Network will tonight stage the first of three fringe events at the political party conferences looking at e-government and ways of improving how local government is perceived. The events have been arranged in association with Vertex under the title, “Can e-Government Really Transform Public Services in Local Government?”Tonight’s session at the Liberal-Democrat conference will be chaired by NLGN’s head of research, Warren Hatter. Speakers will include the Lib-Dem spokesman on the Cabinet and IT, Richard Allan, Councillor David Tutt, the deputy leader of Eastbourne Council and Dr Andrew Larner from the Improvement and Development Agency.

The organisers say that with the government’s 2005 e-government implementation target closing in, most debate around local e-government is focused on what councils need to do to make the grade. Some authorities, they say, are jumping though the minimum number of hoops while others see IT as providing a range of opportunities to rethink established practice. The event is designed to answer the question of how to get more of the latter.

More profoundly, NLGN asks, whether, as the government rests many of its hopes on radically improving our public services, e-government can deliver locally and if it can it help rescue local government from the low esteem in which it is held by many people?

There will be a similar session at the Labour Party conference next week when the key speakers will be Douglas Alexander, the Cabinet Office Minister and Councillor Hazel Harding, the leader of Lancashire County Council. At the Conservative Conference in Blackpool on October 8th Westmisnter Council Leader, Simon Milton, will speak alongside Eric Pickles the Shadow Secretary for Local Government and the Regions.