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BEECHAM LAYS OUT LGA'S SHOPPING LIST AS ARMSTRONG SAYS THERE'S 'NO ALTERNATIVE' TO CHANGE

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The Local Government Association today publishes its plan for reform of local government, in advance of the governm...
The Local Government Association today publishes its plan for reform of local government, in advance of the government's proposals, BBC Radio Four's Today programme reported this morning.

LGA chair Jeremy Beecham told the programme: 'We need reforms to enable councils to make a difference to their communities. That means more financial autonomy, improvements to the electoral system to encourage turnout and some of the powers that have been stripped away from local government to be restored'.

Local government minister Hilary Armstrong welcomed the LGA's report and said: 'We are determined to get a revitalised local government and of course that means local government has to be accountable, not to central government as it largely has been, but to local people'.

Tony Travers of the London School of Economics told the programme the Labour government believes in local government constitutionally, but often does not like what it sees in individual councils.

Both Sir Jeremy and the minister agreed changes were needed to attract a broader range of people to be councillors.

Political parties must address the problem, Ms Armstrong said. 'But it's also about what councils do and how they're organised', she said. 'We want many more people both to be on the council, give their public service, but also to have a life'.

Sir Jeremy said: 'We've got to get away from the old Victorian idea of city fathers sitting around committee tables. We do need a sharper, more up to date way of dealing with things'.

But Mr Travers said there are a significant number of councillors who like the way things are and will resist any change.

Ms Armstrong said there was 'no alternative' to change in local government.

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