Headlines: October 29th, 2004

The Local Government Association is gearing up to for the next general election with a campaign to persuade politicians of all parties to give real commitment to local government. The Association wants to ensure that talk about new localism is turned into reality with greater freedom and flexibilities for councils to decide what is best for their local communities. It will also seek to ensure that partnership working between central and local government and between county and district councils is promoted.The Chairman, Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart and the Executive of the Association will work with leading politicians to coordinate public affairs and the corporate agenda to deliver the Association’s manifesto and persuade each political party to give real commitment to local government.

Local Area Agreements, which are being piloted by 21 councils, provide a potential opportunity for new localism to be put into practice. Whilst initially the pilots are only involved in a small proportion of spending on public services, the ambition is to show that delivery of public services will be more efficient and responsive if it is joined up under one local democratically accountable banner, with the flexibility to spend public money in a way that suits local need. The experience of the pilots will show whether they offer a reliable mechanism to join up the delivery of local public services under one umbrella. The pilots will also reveal whether this is the way to tackle the problems caused by a myriad of separate pots of funding from various Whitehall departments being channelled to different public bodies serving the same local populations.

The Local Government Association has appointed Ben Page, a director of the pollster MORI, to advise and work with the Association one day a week to foster its ambition to raise the public perception and standing of local government.