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LA21: CONFERENCE HEARS CALL FOR COMMITMENT FROM THE TOP

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Today's launch of joint central and local government guidance on Local Agenda 21 by deputy prime minister John Pres...
Today's launch of joint central and local government guidance on Local Agenda 21 by deputy prime minister John Prescott and environment minister Michael Meacher was welcomed by local authority figures.

Celia Cameron, chair of the UK Local Agenda 21 steering group and member of the LGA's policy and strategy committee, said she was 'most encouraged' by the remarks made by Mr Prescott and Mr Meacher.

She said the importance the government attaches to sustainable development was 'most welcome' and the progress that had been made since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 was 'most impressive'.

She said that 70% of all UK local authorities are now commited to the aims of LA21 and that more than 200 authorities have already produced strategies.

'The main message from the past five years is the strong evidence that [in response to the challenge] local authorities have been creative, flexible and visionary,' she said. 'LA21 has opened up town and county halls.'

But she reminded delegates at the LGA/LGMB-organised Local Agenda 21-The Corporate Challenge conference in London that there were still some authorities where LA21 was seen as peripheral or too 'environmental'.

Cllr Cameron highlighted the fact that in the future progress 'really has to be about more than just the environment'. She said: 'It cannot be a freestanding project; It must be seen to be mainstream and in the centre of things.

'The interlinkages are very important. They have to be worked into the language of best value, community plans, social inclusion, regeneration and public health.'

She emphasised that there must be commitment from the top and that LA 21 must be built into everything local authorities do.

'LA21 and the new guidance provides a valuable framework. But it doesn't mean starting from scratch. Many strategies or objectives may already be in line with LA21 but perhaps people don't know it yet.'

She concluded by saying that LA21 was an important and exciting agenda and called on councillors for commitment to make sure it really happened.

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