Headlines: December 16th, 2004

The Local Government Association has set out what it calls four ‘citizens tests’ for evaluating and comparing how well local councils are governing. They were outlined by the association’s chairman, Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, as he stressed the need for change driven by the needs of the communities and citizens that local authorities served.The four tests are transparency so that people can identify who is democratically accountable, subsidiarity, so power is devolved to the most local level of government appropriate, responsiveness to ensure that decision-making is fast, effective and welcomes participation and equality and inclusiveness to give all citizens an equal opportunity to participate.

Sir Sandy launched the consultation paper “Stronger political leadership, better local government “, to begin what the LGA sees as a vital debate that will shape the future role of government and councils. Sir Sandy said neighbourhood committees with real powers, a stronger local leadership role for council leaders and mayors, more inclusive processes for local decision-making and more training and support for the representative role of councillors needed to be explored in the drive for better local government.

“We have committed ourselves to improve, and we strongly believe that further improvement can be best delivered by devolving power to local government, and through local government, so we in turn empower our residents and communities and local organisations,” he said.

The launch of the paper begins a consultation with councils, government and partners on future arrangements for local government. It argues that improvements to local government should be determined by the requirements of communities, not the self-interest of professionals or politicians at the centre or in councils.