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LOCAL DEMOCRACY - FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH

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The annual conference of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities takes place in St Andrews from 10-12 March. E...
The annual conference of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities takes place in St Andrews from 10-12 March. Entitled 'Local Democracy from Strength to Strength' it will be a celebration of the value and achievements of local democracy with an emphasis on ensuring that it goes from strength to strength in the coming years.

Among the things to be looked at will be the agenda being put forward for the second term of the Scottish Executive and whether or not their proposals will mean a strengthened local government in four years time or whether it will be in a weaker position.

COSLA president Pat Watters said:

'COSLA's annual conference is the keynote event in the Scottish calendar and I am delighted that both the first minister Jack McConnell and finance and public services minister Andy Kerr will be addressing it.

'I believe it is important that they are both in attendance because we will be looking at where now for local government and why we believe it should be from strength to strength.

'In the course of my work as president of COSLA, I never fail to be impressed by the passion and commitment towards local government from both elected members and officers. I see local democracy in practice and at its best at two levels - delivering for local communities and arguing strongly for the local dimension to be taken account of when the executive is deciding on the direction of policies.

'This year's conference will fulfil a number of functions. It will celebrate and provide a showcase for the excellent work being done the length and breadth of Scotland by local councils and not in a uniform and narrowly prescribed way but imaginatively and with a response that is rooted in the needs of the local area.

'There will be debate on what we need to do to ensure that the nuts and bolts of government locally such as fair and workable voting systems and adequate remuneration are in place so that the underpinning aspects of a vibrant local democracy are healthy. La stly, we will be looking at COSLA's business for the coming year and our tactics for maximising our influence over the big issues facing local government and I am pleased that the first minister has agreed to give us his own view of the position and role of the public sector in Scotland.'

COSLA's chief executive Rory Mair added:

'The conference will explore ways in which local democracy can be strengthened. We will look at the importance of local democracy from an international, European, and domestic perspective. Councils will demonstrate the quality and excellence of local services throughout Scotland, made possible by the unique contribution of local government to strategic leadership, connecting with communities, delivering national priorities locally, and ensuring well being.

'We will examine COSLA's own contribution to strengthening the position and influence of local government in Scotland and the current work being carried out on the governance issues, particularly ways ofsecuring greater voter participation and removing barriers to involvement in local government. In the final session, we will hear the first minister's view of the importance of local government and the relationship he wishes to see exist between the executive and its local government partners. It will be an opportunity to question the strength and depth of that relationship, examine both opportunities and potential threats to local democracy.'

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