Headlines: November 21st, 2003

A government announcement of measures designed to provide more freedom to district councils has been criticised as a missed opportunity by the Local Government Association. The changes extend to district authorities the freedoms and flexibilities announced last year for county and unitary councils and the London and metropolitan boroughs.But LGA leaders said they were disappointed ministers had not considered and appreciated the potential contribution district councils could make in helping to deliver the improvements in public services to which both central and local government were committed.

The local government minister, Nick Raynsford, said the new measures would allow district councils, as they go through the CPA process, to receive additional freedoms and flexibilities comparable to those already available to other authorities. “We are directing more funding to build capacity in weaker councils and providing more incentives to all councils to give peer support to others to help them improve,” he said.

Sir Jeremy Beecham, chair of the LGA said, extra freedoms and flexibilities for local government were always welcome, but the Association was disappointed with this announcement because the potential it had to deliver an exciting range of measures has not been exploited.

“Districts are diverse and unique and Ministers could have used this strength to develop a more innovative approach,” he said. District councils could make a valuable contribution to the delivery of the exciting agenda around improved ‘liveability’ and Sir Jeremy urged ministers to work with the LGA and member authorities to bring this about.