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Local government needs to change its relationship with the public, Paul Corrigan told the IRRV conference in Blackp...
Local government needs to change its relationship with the public, Paul Corrigan told the IRRV conference in Blackpool today.

The relationship with the public should be a council's 'core business', he said. The traditional relationship - via the ballot box - has become weak, with low turnouts at local elections. Local government is in danger of losing its 'legitimacy', he warned - its right to act, given by the electoral process.

Councils have lost contact with the public because people's expectations have changed over the past 30 years, he said. They are no longer 'grateful' for whatever services the council provides. This is a good thing, he believed, but it is causing local government problems.

Professor Corrigan called for new attitudes in local government, including in the area of local taxation. Councils might think there is no need to consult taxpayers - 'why ask when you can just take?'. But they need to make a case to the public that they are spending the money in useful ways.

'We fail to demonstrate what the use value of taxation is', he said. 'It would be different if local government had to see itself as earning the money , not just spending it' - in other words, if councils had to market themselves and persuade people to hand over their money.

Councils should also think beyond seeing their resources as nothing more than their income. They should move to 'seeing tax pounds as an investment to bring in other resources', he said. Local authorities have an opportunity to do that now, as in January they will know their budgets for the next three years and can plan ahead.

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