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Specialist groups will free chair to build reputation...
Specialist groups will free chair to build reputation

Nina Lovelace, acting editor

Few could say that either of the previous two chairs of the Local Government Association had an easy ride, but the challenge looming for the next chair is arguably even more complex.

Not only must he be prepared to balance the demands of members with the need to fight local government's corner on the national stage, he will also preside over what promise to be some extremely challenging years for local government itself.

But one area in which a future chair will be luckier than his predecessors will be how able he is to use the strengths of LGA members for the greater good.

Ignoring for a moment whether or not central government always acts as though it recognises it, the local government community is in a much stronger position than

it was.

A wise future chair will surely be one that gives greater responsibility to its special interest groups to shape the association's policy.

For example, groups such as the district sounding board, which has worked hard recently to find a voice for smaller councils that, despite their size, still find time and energy to innovate.

If the groups are well led and share a common mantra - say, one of constant improvement combined with decreasing patience with councils which tread water - there is no reason why involving more members need result in stultifying internal battles.

Putting more onus on specialist groups to solve problems would leave greater space for a chair to tackle what remains one of local government's key challenges - improving its national reputation and getting its messages out.

The association has done much to garner more positive national news coverage, but considering how much public money local government collectively spends each year, it

seems incredible few people outside the local government world are able to put a name to the face of the LGA.

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