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Defending David...
Defending David

I was amazed at your comments regarding David Miliband's idea of devolving power to neighbourhoods (LGC, 19 February).

For the first time, we seem to have a minister who is genuinely interested in new ideas for local democracy.

Turnout figures show most people do not feel any affinity with the artificial local government units created in the last century. As Mr Miliband has rightly argued, many are too small to be strategic, yet too remote to be local.

Those who criticise him should also realise that the democratic system can lead to the election of individuals who are on the extremes of the political spectrum.

The real issue should be to look at the reasons why people vote for extremists and then to defeat those extremists through political debate.

Jeff Jones (lab)

Former leader, Bridgend CBC

Say 'no' to mergers

Your article 'Merger talks point way to single tier' (LGC, 9 February), suggesting the unitary debate has support in Cambridgeshire, is wide of the mark.

There may be a few individuals within Cambridge City Council who still yearn for unitary status, but that is not a view shared within the county council.

The review of 10 years ago created damaging disputes. Since then, we have developed some of the best partnership arrangements in the country, all with the common aim of making a difference to our communities.

Keith Walters (Con)

Leader, Cambridgeshire CC

Localism works

So there isn't an appetite for the government's localism plans, and they won't raise service standards (LGC, 16 February)? There's plenty of evidence to the contrary.

Past attempts to increase user involvement in services have been resisted, but have led to improvements. And involvement goes up when people believe they can make a difference.

Give local people the real power to make decisions over their street, public space, safety and neighbourhood, and there will be an explosion of participation. Just as importantly, their affinity to their community will rise.

Tom Franklin

Chief executive, Living Streets

Trust the councillors

David Miliband's speech to Labour's spring conference (LGC, 16 February) drew a distinction between what people could do, and what people were encouraged to do by the system.

One area he pointed to was the government's long-trailed Neighbourhood charter. These local agreements will outline basic principles of community life, clarify arrangements for engagement and set service standards. But who will develop, champion and police these changes?

Answer: the local councillor. As government develops its neighbourhoods agenda it has nowhere to turn but to the local councillor to give its ideas leadership and legitimacy. Time will tell whether the promising noises sounded out by Mr Miliband translate into a new and invigorated role for the local councillor.

Dennis Reed

Chief executive,

Local Government Information Unit

Ignoring the facts

There is evidence that proves nursery classes staffed by a mixed team, comprising childdevelopment officers and fully-qualified teachers, offer the best provision for children.

In the face of this, if you were a senior official in a council with over 70 free-standing nurseries - half of which had a teacher working directly with the children and the other half without - what would you do?

Well, in Glasgow recently, the decision was to cut the posts. No response to the evidence has been made. But then, it would be hard to challenge the evidence, because some of it comes from a study funded by none other than Glasgow City Council.

Dr Peter Dickman

Paisley, Scotland

Passive phoning

Regarding the smoking ban, anything that improves public health has to be a good thing, but can we extend ban to passive mobile phone conversations?

Paul Masterman

Head of communications,

Shropshire CC

Stand-up comic

Was I the only one amused by your headline 'Northern women urged to stand' (LGC, 19 February) that accompanied a photograph showing a group of women mostly sitting down?

Andrew Down

Head of ICT, South Oxfordshire DC

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