Headlines: January 30th, 2009

A new report has called for local government to have a key place at the national political table and to have its role protected by law. The report, produced by the think-tank Localis sponsored by the Local Government Association, was published as the Prime Minister called councils “the backbone of our local communities” and highlighted the work they could do in meeting local housing needs, preventing long-term unemployment, and supporting small business.

The Localis report argued for a series of reforms to the political process so local issues were placed at the heart of national politics. It said the role and freedom of local government should be enshrined in legislation and the burden of inspection and performance management should be reduced to allow councils to focus on matters that directly affected their residents.

The vice-chair of the LGA, Sir Jeremy Beecham called the report timely and said, “While councils are doing everything that they can to help local people face the recession head on, they are still finding themselves burdened by an overly centralised political system. It is enlightening to see how the system in England compares with our peers across the world, and disappointing that local government does not have the voice it deserves at the national table.”

Meanwhile, in a speech to the New Local Government Network, Gordon Brown pledged greater freedoms for local authorities. He said, “With the three-year settlement of an additional 8.9 bilion pounds, an average 4.2 per cent cash increase per year in funding, councils now have even greater flexibility and funding with which to support their communities through the downturn. I pledge that we will act wherever and whenever we can to ensure the necessary freedoms and flexibilities for authorities. But equally, local authorities should feel a similar obligation to do all they can to benefit their communities.”