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OPINION-STEVE BUNDRED, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF CAMDEN LBC, ON SPEECHES

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MORI pollster Bob Worcester introduced us to the concept of 'post-modernist hedonism' during his session at last we...
MORI pollster Bob Worcester introduced us to the concept of 'post-modernist hedonism' during his session at last week's Local Government Association conference.
This is presumably more fun than old hedonism, and not half as baffling as the 'permissive Stalinism' espoused by Peter Mandelson during his speech at a meeting organised by the New Local Government Network.
You do not often hear positive mentions of Stalin at NLGN events, but this one was brimming with them.
Mr Worcester and Mr Mandelson were both making the same point ? councils have lost touch with their electorate.
This could have been made more forcefully by simply inviting us all to look around the room. As the composition of the 1,500 delegates to the conference clearly displayed, local government is elderly, overwhelmingly male and almost exclusively white.
It also whinges a lot ? mostly about best value and inspection, the separation of executive and scrutiny functions having now been accepted as a fait accompli.
One topic that surprisingly failed to ignite the conference was the involvement of the private sector in the provision of public services.
Presumably the new secretary of state for transport, local government and the regions, Stephen Byers, had been suitably reassuring at the Labour Group meeting he addressed in Harrogate early this week.
He certainly spoke in emollient tones on this topic at the conference on Friday and more generally his speech was strongly supportive of local autonomy and very well received. So much so, no delegate pointed to the incongruity between announcing a reduction in the number of different funding streams facing councils, while announcing a new one ? home zones ? in the same speech.
Given the positive pledges he made on inspection, business improvement districts and council borrowing, perhaps it would have been churlish to do so.
Local government minister Nick Raynsford also received a warm welcome, but the absence of any representation from the Department of Health or the Department for Education and Skills was noticeable.
As LGA conference delegates seem so obsessed with structures and powers ? with talk of mayors, regionalism, inspection and local taxation ? perhaps other ministers have now spotted that the issues
of delivering basic services appears to have dropped off
the conference programme.
Steve Bundred
Chief executive, Camden LBC
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