Headlines: May 21st, 2009

Leading figures in local government have welcomed a call by the Commons Communities and Local Government Select Committee for more power to be devolved to local authorities.

In a report issued yesterday, the committee recommended cultural change in central government and parliament, changes to local government financing, and more power for councils in the areas of health and policing. It also warned against over inspection, recommending a “genuinely less obtrusive performance framework.”

Chair of the CLG Committee Dr Phyllis Starkey said that Britain was a “long way from an equitable and healthy balance of power between central and local government:

“Local authorities clearly know their communities better than Whitehall does, particularly for instance when it comes to local health inequalities, policing needs or tackling the local impact of the economic recession.”

Cllr Margaret Eaton, Chairman of the Local Government Association, said that, in calling for power to be devolved, the report endorsed what councils had been saying for years, and would “reinvigorate” local democracy.

She commented: “Decisions taken by councillors who are closer to those they serve will be better because they are more likely to understand people’s needs and more efficient because they have better access to information and intelligence.”

Andy Sawford, Chief Executive of local government think tank the LGiU, said: “Local councils are now the highest performing part of the public sector and local councillors, who these days have a very robust approach to standards of conduct, and are more in touch with the real lives of the British people, are better placed to make decisions and be held to account for them.”