Debate on local government reform was opened further today with the launch of a new web forum. The forum provides an opportunity for members of the general public to make their views known directly, as well as offering another channel for local government stakeholders – such as local authorities, the business sector and voluntary and community organisations – to contribute to discussions.The Deal for Devolution proposes a radically different form of local government where power is moved down from Whitehall to councils and from councils to citizens. It involves the creation of Neighbourhood Charters within a National Neighbourhood Framework. The charters would set out how public services are delivered to a neighbourhood and the empowerment mechanisms that are available to local people. The proposals provide challenges and opportunities for local and central government and the result will be radical changes in responsibilities and relationships.
The web forum is part of a full process of engagement on the reform proposals, and the views contributed will help shape the publication of a local government White Paper in summer 2006. Initially, the online debate will be focused around the issues of local government restructuring and neighbourhoods. The debate will address topics such as local authority roles and responsibilities, strong local leadership, and effective representation. Discussion on neighbourhoods will focus on devolving decision making and empowering communities at a grass roots level.
The forum is part of a ‘Digital Dialogues’ pilot being carried out by the Hansard Society for the Department of Constitutional Affairs, exploring democracy and electronic media.