Headlines: March 2nd, 2006

The first of a series of Regional Roundtables on the future of local governance, including possible local government reorganisation will take place today in Birmingham. The full programme of events has now been published with the final details of dates and venues being completed yesterday.Invitations to the Roundtables have gone to council leaders in shire England who will get the chance to take part in face to face debate on governance and structure. All the events will be attended by ministers from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. Today’s will be hosted by the Under Secretary, Jim Fitzpatrick.

The invitations have been sent out by Communities and Local Government Minister David Miliband who said the process was an active dialogue covering county, district and unitary authorities, neighbourhoods and the roles of parishes and of ward councillors as well as the nature of leadership within any new unitary authority. He stressed that no decisions had been taken by ministers on whether or not to go for reorganisation of the two tier structure in some way. As part of the wider debate about governance in the 21st century, he said, they were simply seeking views on what were the best arrangements in particular places.

As well as the Roundtable Events, Mr. Miliband is to host further events across county council areas following the success of initial meetings in Shrewsbury and Gloucester last month. These County Dialogues are being seen as an opportunity for a wider cross section of local stakeholders to give their views, including representatives of local businesses and the voluntary sector. They will join local authority leaders and Chief Executives from a number of counties and districts to contribute to the debate.

Following the various discussions the Government will set out its position on local government in a White Paper in the middle of this year. “This will deliver a clear vision for the long term future of local government, including the crucial issue of structure,” said Mr. Miliband.

Following today’s event in Birmingham, Roundtables are scheduled for Cambridge on march 13th, Manchester on March 15th, York the following day, Newcastle on March 21st, Bristol on the 23rd, London on the 29th and finally the East Midlands on March 30th. County dialogues have been organised in East Sussex on March 24th, Lincolnshire on the 27th and Lancashire on March 31st.