Headlines: May 11th, 2005

David Miliband, the new Minister for Communities and Local Government spent three hours yesterday with Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, Chairman of the Local Government Association, to get the town hall view of the future for local government. The LGA believes that the appointment of a second minister to the Cabinet table symbolises a historic opportunity to deliver a lasting return of power and choice to the people. The new Minister will work with the Deputy Prime Minister, to help put issues of community governance, better neighbourhoods and the funding of local government, at the top of the agenda.LGA leaders said they would lose no time in meeting other new ministers and were keen to start work on their common cause – making life better for all those in local communities. They believe that the new developments reflect how councils have worked in partnership with central government and successfully taken on new responsibilities, such as tackling anti-social behaviour, and are well-placed to deliver improved and joined up public services.

Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart said: “With much talk now of a new style of government to address new challenges, this is a historic opportunity to drive home the case for a return of real power and choice to the people through elected local government. If there was a single message in the general election, from the electorate to all political parties, it was that we need to rebuild trust. Local authorities are an essential building block in strengthening democracy. To do this we need radical decentralisation from government to local councils. We in turn will empower the local organisations and local people we represent”. He added: “People are hungry for more choice and power to be devolved away from Whitehall and quangos, and with a boosted Cabinet to help, we have a real opportunity to spread that thinking in partnership to all government departments.”

The LGA is writing separately to the Prime Minister, secretaries of state, and ministers with an interest in local government, setting out its stall for the new Parliament. The letters will stress that this is a vital opportunity to demonstrate that the future is local.