Headlines: August 15th, 2005

The Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties have joined together to form a cross party group to debate and comment on local government issues. The Group is set to become one of the largest and most significant of the registered All Party Parliamentary Groups, which have a long tradition in parliament as forums bringing together MPs to discuss issues of shared interest. The proposal to form the Group came from the Local Government Information Unit, who approached MPs to encourage the establishment of the group. The Unit has been concerned about the level of national political debate about the key issues facing local government. Wider support also came from councillors and others who were concerned that issues such as council tax and the balance of funding, were being used as political footballs.Priority areas of work for the Group include contributing to the debate on local government finance, the Ten Year Vision for Local Government currently being consulted on by the ODPM, and the role of directly elected Mayors.

The Group’s members include a wide range of MPs and peers, including former Ministers, and current Shadow Ministers. Alison Seabeck, the new MP for Plymouth Devonport, who is well known in the local government sector for her work as an adviser to Nick Raynsford, has been elected as the first Chair of the Group. Eric Pickles MP, Clive Betts MP and Paul Burstow MP, respectively Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat, become Vice Chairs, ensuring the Group will take a cross party approach. Other officers are Neil Turner MP, who becomes Honorary Treasurer and Lord Hanningfield, who will take the role of Honorary Secretary.