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By political correspondent Varya Shaw ...
By political correspondent Varya Shaw

The Local Government Association must start a real debate about autonomous local government, LGA chief executive Sir Brian Briscoe has said.

At a seminar on his pamphlet Out of confusion,Sir Brian said his personal view was that the association must tackle Whitehall head on over the shameful state of local government in England and Wales.

He admitted: 'The profile of local government generally is not much higher than it was five years ago. There has been talk in central places of letting go or of a new localism. All of that is the incrementalism moving in a direction we want to go.

'On the other hand we have got a continuation of this frontline first attitude we identified a few years ago. Aspects of comprehensive performance assessment have handed central government a reason for measurement, inspection and intervention but not for letting go or increasing local discretion. Incrementalism has been the only place to be but I think we've been incremental for too long and it is time to change.'

He called for a change in LGA rhetoric 'which puts the case for autonomous local government where it should be'.

A new vision of local government was needed, which conveyed its real nature: 'We don't just do public services. We're still seen as the delivery arm of government and not as part of governance and the relationship with civil society.'

Such a vision would take into account 'the whole community, not just the local authority or services in it', he said.

Sir Brian stressed there was a wider context backing up his case: 'Globalisation, terrorism, Europe and events in the rest of the world threaten the stability people have become accustomed to and require some localist responses.'

He hit out at people who denigrated the LGA's six priorities as covering 'what local government does anyway so they don't mean anything'. They covered 'defined areas of public policy where there aren't simple solutions,' he said.

The LGA stressed these were Sir Brian's personal views. Out of confusion attacks what Sir Brian sees as the sterility and bureaucracy of Labour's local government policy. Available from LGA sales on 020 8867 3287.

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