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COUNCILS URGED TO FIND NEW WAYS OF INCLUDING THE PUBLIC IN DECISION MAKING

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Effective communication is the key element to restoring faith in local...
Effective communication is the key element to restoring faith in local

politics, an LGA conference marking Local Democracy Week, concluded

yesterday.

Addressing poor public awareness of the role of local government is seen as

one of the most important challenges for local councils. A telephone survey

by the LGA publishedthis week showed that peoples' awareness of the work of

their councils is based on visible services, with 7 out of 10 people

identifying street cleaning, rubbish collection, and transport services as

the responsibility of local councils. There was less awareness of other

services, even though the bulk of expenditure by local councils is on

education and social services.

Feedback from the LGA's member councils in England and Wales, further

demonstrates that those same visible services are the main subject about

which the public most frequently contact their local councils.

The LGA released its annual publication of facts and information about local

government at the conference. Entitled Local Matters 2002, highlights

reveal:

- Over 25,000 schools with eight million pupils are maintained by local

councils

- Local councils provide 14,898 playgrounds for the under-12s

- Local councils helped 1.3 million people aged over 65 to live at home

independently and achieved a 40% increase in the number of adoptions of

'looked-after children' in England in the last six years, placing 3,097 of

these children with families in 2001

Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, vice-chairman of the LGA, said: 'Understanding the

work and the role of your local council is an important part of local

democracy. We want people to realise that they can influence the decisions

being made about public services, and to do that we need to be continually

developing new ways of communicating with our public. We need to listen, to

seek feedback, and to be increasingly accountable.'

The conference debated ways of encouraging greater participation in the

democratic process.

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