Headlines: May 23rd, 2005

The Local Government Information Unit is stepping up its efforts to get rid of the barriers, which it believes prevent many people from being active in local public service. It has launched two new factsheets in its Perilous Democracy campaign.The first – ‘Don’t make allowances. Let’s reward our councillors’ – puts the case for a better and more consistent system of allowances for councillors to encourage more people from different backgrounds to put themselves forward as councillors and to enable those who are elected to devote more time to the role. It calls, too, for fairer treatment of councillors in the tax and benefit system, more support for them in their caring duties and more consistent IT support within local authorities to enable elected members to be most effective in a modern information society.

The second sheet, ‘Equipping councillors for the future’, calls for stronger arrangements on access for councillors to the local government pension scheme. It wants all councillors under 70 to have the right to contribute to the scheme. The LGIU is also backing a national retirement scheme for long-serving councillors to recognise their public service and to help make way for new people to come forward.

Tracy Gardiner, LGIU Policy Officer and author of the factsheets, said, “Nobody should become a councillor for any great personal financial reward and very few do. However, if we are to attract a range of councillors that represent the diversity of modern Britain and so boost the talent pool within local government, councillors should be equipped to do the job in a modern setting and be at no disadvantage from their economic circumstances or social background.”

She says the changes that the Unit is suggesting, with other reforms, will help to achieve a more representative range of local councillors drawn from a wider pool of talent. Nobody, she said, should suffer unfairly in their standard of living because of an interest in public service.

Both factsheets explain the current situation, put forward arguments for reform and suggest ideas on how to lobby for change.