Headlines: February 6th, 2007



The first university qualification for councillors in Britain has been launched by the University of Sunderland, in collaboration with the National Association of Councillors. The one-year Certificate for Elected Councillors has been designed to equip elected members to meet the current demands of local government.

The course was officially launched by the Prime Minister who said it was important that councillors did their job well because local authorities had to handle incredibly important issues and were the interface with the public. “Councillors are elected and thrown in to do their work. There is basic training but they should be able to step back and analyse what they are trying to achieve in a strategic sense,” Mr Blair said during a visit to Gateshead Council.

The new course is due to begin in June this year and will be equivalent to one year of a degree programme. The first 40 councillor students, drawn from across the UK, will study three modules covering the background, history and development of local government as well as current issues and legislative changes. The elected members taking part will have to keep a workbook and diary reflecting on their day-to-day experiences. They will also have chances to share good practice. The study will involve three weekend sessions of teaching, opportunities for feedback within their own local authorities and personal study using online materials from the University.

Peter Mole, who is General Secretary of the National Association of Councillors and a member of Gateshead council, said it was vitally important for councillors to take part in the course, which may be rolled out to elected representatives across Europe in the longer term.

The Course leader will be Dr Simon Henig, Principal Lecturer in Politics at Sunderland, who said: “The current training for councillors is segmented. What was missing was the overall training in how councils work and the context in which they work. Councils handle major budgets and need to work effectively and strategically.”