Headlines: June 29th, 2006

Ruth Kelly has promised that measures in the forthcoming White Paper on Local Government will build on the success of work that has been done to break down barriers between the public and government institutions. She underlined the Government’s commitment to empowering local people to shape local policies and said the sharing of power between central and local government and communities was essential.The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government was speaking at the launch of the first annual review of the action plan, “Together We Can”. She praised schemes working to give residents more control over their communities and promised to build on this approach. “I am excited about the forthcoming White Paper and I want to see more people being able to have their say in the decisions that have such a profound effect on what matters to them and their communities. It will breathe life into our democratic decision making,” she said.

“Together We Can” is a cross-government plan to improve the way people engage with local and central government. Twelve central Government departments are involved in creating opportunities for people to influence policies on citizenship, democracy, health, regeneration, safety and justice.

The first review looks at examples of progress in these areas across the country. They include involving the community in making improvements in Liverpool; 450 Neighbourhood Warden schemes established across England that are generally employed by local authorities or Registered Social Landlords; and the Black Country-based Active Learning for Active Citizenship’s West Midlands hub, where Asian women have taken part in a programme that has brought them to the Houses of Parliament to meet women MPs and to learn about public decision making and the roles they can play as active citizens.

Ruth Kelly said the plan had united departments across government and she was determined to make sure local services reflect the demands of local people and local communities. “I am confident there is a growing willingness among residents and public bodies to work together. Now we must draw on the enthusiasm and energy of these successful examples and spread their messages,” she said.