Headlines: February 3rd, 2006

Discussion will be held next week on the vision of David Miliband, Minister of Communities and Local Government, for a radically different form of local government where power is moved down from Whitehall to councils and from councils to citizens. Speaking last month he outlined a process for neighbourhoods to create their own Neighbourhood Charters within a National Neighbourhood Framework (see Publicnet 19 January 2006). The charters would set out how public services are delivered to a neighbourhood and the empowerment mechanisms that are available to local people.Radical change on this scale would be difficult to achieve without changes to the organisational structures involving a re-think of county and district council responsibilities. It is understood that no decisions have yet been taken about whether or not to go for reorganisation of the two tier structure.

The first meeting to discuss the Minister’s vision will be held on 7 February in Shrewsbury. Leaders of Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin and Herefordshire county councils have been invited to attend, as also have the council group leaders and the chief executives. A further four events for county councils will be held in other regions.

The consultation programme will also include a series of eight ‘Regional Roundtables’, to be hosted by ODPM Ministers. These events will cover each of the eight regions outside London and will provide an opportunity for Ministers and local authority leaders to fully engage in debate on governance, structure and the change process.

David Miliband said: “Government is determined to create a strong and sustainable role for local government with self confident councils that lead and empower their communities and work with others to deliver high quality public services.”

A White Paper will be published in summer 2006 setting out a clear vision for the long term future of local government, including the crucial issue of structure.