Headlines: February 15th, 2008

Local authorities have been quick to show their support for a campaign to recognise the importance of councillors. The Local Government Information Unit has reported a ‘terrific response from councils’ who have signed up to ‘Supporting Councillors: a manifesto for councils’. It plans to have 100 councils signed up by the end of March before the Government is due to give its formal response to the report of the Councillors Commission, ‘Representing the Future.’

Maureen Alderson, head of the LGiU’s Centre for Local Democracy said, “We are really encouraged by the positive response of local authorities to this campaign. It is important for councils to answer this call to action. It benefits individual councils to support councillors in their role and it is an opportunity to demonstrate to central government that councils are doing their part and central government should too”.

The manifesto sets out 12 actions councils can take to support and strengthen the role of councillor. Many of these fall within existing council powers and do not need new legislation or government involvement. The manifesto’s author, Tracy Gardiner, a policy analyst at the Centre for Local Democracy, said: “Councils do not need to wait for government to take action,” and she added, “This action plan is a real opportunity for councils to demonstrate their commitment to local representative democracy.”

One suggestion in the manifesto is a voluntary national framework of allowances for councillors set by an independent panel. Campaigns in the past have called for such a framework to be set up by the Government but the manifesto shows it is something that councils can do. It explains that an independent remuneration panel to recommend a voluntary framework would mean councils no longer needing to set up and pay for local panels, which can cost as much as the average annual allowances of two councillors.