Headlines: May 10th, 2006

A think tank has welcomed the appointment of the first Secretary of State for Local Government and Communities in the Cabinet reshuffle. The New Local Government Network says the new department, being run by former education Secretary Ruth Kelly, had the opportunity to put decentralisation high on the political agenda and to create a new contract with citizens for devolving power from Whitehall.The NLGN has also welcomed comments by the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, indicating that the Government is committed to more power being passed to local communities from central government.

Chris Leslie, Director of the Network said the creation of the department offered a fresh chance to signal the Government’s commitment to localism and devolution in England. “In welcoming Ruth Kelly to her new post, NLGN urges an early focus on how Whitehall as a whole can let go of the policy and financial reins, and empower local authorities to deliver civic renewal,” he said.

He added that the changes quite rightly brought together a more coherent assembly of policy responsibilities at the new department but the Local Government White Paper in June would need to deliver a bolder vision demonstrating how every Government department would improve their approach to decentralisation.

NLGN has also welcomed comments made yesterday by the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, offering government commitment to devolving more power from Whitehall to local communities.

Meanwhile the National Council for Voluntary Organisations has said the reshuffle has created an important opportunity for the voluntary sector. In the run up to last year’s General Election the NCVO called for the Cabinet Office to be given responsibility for the sector. Stuart Etherington, the NCVO’s Chief Executive, said, “Now that this has come to fruition, we believe that it provides an excellent opportunity to create cross-departmental coherence towards the sector, for example by ensuring genuine implementation of the Compact. This could prove beneficial to the sector’s role in transforming public service delivery and building active citizenship