Headlines: August 4th, 2008

A local government think tank is calling on the Government to be bolder in its approach to constitutional reform. The Local Government Information Unit believes the Government has so far failed to get a dialogue going on the practical issues of reform and it wants clarity on the balance between local and central government.

The LgiU is urging ministers to consider the wider issues in the Constitutional Renewal Bill. Its call is in line with recommendations from the joint committee on the draft Bill. That report detailed evidence the committee had heard showing that the Government was missing the bigger picture. The MPs said some significant reforms were outside the scope of the draft bill and they urged the Government to change its approach and to include the objectives of the Governance of Britain Green Paper in the Renewal Bill.

Hilary Kitchin, a policy analyst at the LGiU’s Centre for Local Democracy, said, “Government has failed to generate a real dialogue on practical issues that have meaning for the general public. The way in which the bill has been drafted has stifled debate and prevented parliament from considering the balance of power between central and local government, as well as how power might be devolved. It is time to be bolder, and to widen the terms of reference of the Constitutional Renewal Bill.”

She warned that over-centralisation would continue to undermine the ability of local government to respond to local people’s needs unless there was clarity about a fair and balanced relationship between central, local and regional government and an agreed basis on how that relationship could be maintained.