Headlines: May 3rd, 2006

The new Chief Executive of the Local Government Association says ward councillors are the unsung heroes of local democracy but they have huge potential for leading their communities. Tim Thorogood will take over at the LGiU following Dennis Reed’s retirement later this summer.In an interview published on the unit’s website he says there is clearly a lot of focus at the moment on the Local Government White Paper and the Lyons Review. “Here, the challenge is to ensure that the opportunity to generate further improvement through changes to funding, performance management and partnerships is maximised. I have a real concern that the opportunity could be lost in local government restructuring and establishing yet more structures at local level,” he says.

He believes the real issue is not structure but what powers and resources local bodies have. “At the heart of this is the local, ward, councillor. I believe that they are not only the ‘unsung heroes’ of local democracy, but have a huge potential to lead their communities. ‘Double devolution’ should focus on ward councillors, not establish further structures which can only undermine their role and prevent the potential being achieved,” he adds.

Mr Thorogood has held senior posts in local government for more than nine years and was the youngest Chief Executive of the City and County of Swansea, responsible for 12,000 staff and a budget of 300 million pounds. He was previously with the London Borough of Haringey and Three Rivers Council in Hertfordshire.

He said he was delighted to have been appointed and added, “The LGiU has a strong track record of influencing policy in favour of local democratic bodies and for me this is an opportunity to bring my frontline experience to bear on national policy debates