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RAYNSFORD INVITES DEBATE ON IMPROVING NEIGHBOURHOODS AND STRENGTHENING LEADERSHIP

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Two documents to further the debate on improving neighbourhoods and strengthening leadership in local government we...
Two documents to further the debate on improving neighbourhoods and strengthening leadership in local government were published today by local government minister Nick Raynsford.

'Citizen Engagement and Public Services: Why Neighbourhoods Matter' and 'Vibrant Local Leadership' follow the launch last July of local:vision (The future of local government: Developing a 10 year vision) which opened the debate on what local government should look like in 10 years' time.

The main elements of today's documents include proposals for a Neighbourhoods Charter. It will recognise the ability of people, individuals and particular groups to take neighbourhood action by providing new opportunities for neighbourhoods everywhere. It will enable people, in partnership with local authorities and other stakeholders, to help shape and drive improvements in the services they receive.

There are proposals to strengthen local leadership. Government will be seeking to allow more options for how councils are run, in particular working in partnership with local authorities to develop a new approach to create more mayors, with more powers to transform our major cities. The documents also set out plans to strengthen the role of councils in leading their areas and of individual ward councillors

- as the leaders and advocates of their neighbourhoods and communities.

Local government minister Nick Raynsford said: 'The government wants to see opportunities for neighbourhoods everywhere that make a real difference to people's lives. This will help to create sustainable communities; places in which people want to live, work, learn and play.

'Effective local leadership is vital to the economic, social and environmental success of local communities and councils have a pivotal role to play in providing this leadership. We need clearer roles for councillors and better ways of attracting talented people to the role.

'This launches a new phase of the local:vision debate and we welcome views on these discussion documents.'

Home Office minister, Hazel Blears, added: 'The work on citizen engagement at the neighbourhood level builds on what the government is already doing on police reform and to tackle anti-social behaviour. People actively engaged in their neighbourhoods can help to make their surrounding environment cleaner and safer and somewhere they enjoy living.'

Citizen Engagement and Public Services: Why Neighbourhoods Matter sets out the foundation for a Neighbourhoods Charter, which could be

accompanied by a menu of options from which neighbourhoods could

choose appropriate arrangements for their circumstances.

A variety of options are discussed in the paper. Neighbourhoods would choose those options most appropriate for that neighbourhood. Options would include:

- Extra anti-social behaviour-related powers for neighbourhood bodies

- Delegation of budgets to ward councillors

- Access to more information on the performance of councils

- Triggers for action for neighbourhood bodies when the quality, accessibility and standards of public service fall below expected standards

- Introduction of model byelaws

- Neighbourhood contracts with service providers

- Neighbourhood ownership and management of community assets

- Increased opportunities for communities to set up parish councils where there is sufficient demand - including removing the barrier on urban parishes in London.

The main topics for debate set out in Vibrant Local Leadership

include:

  • Developing councils' role in leading the locality - pulling together public agencies and key stakeholders to act together to secure excellent services and solve local problems.

  • Reinforcing a distinctive role for local councillors - as neighbourhood champions, leaders and advocates for their wards and communities.

  • Greater discretion on models of governance and leadership, which integrate wider locality and community dimensions in a way that is ta ilored to local circumstances.

  • Consulting on proposals to develop, in partnership with local authorities, a new approach to create more mayors with more powers to transform our major cities

  • Action to attract a more diverse range of councillors and managerial leaders with more support to retain those with the right skills to represent their communities.

  • Move to whole council elections every four years for all councils in England - providing greater clarity to voters and greater stability for councils.

    * Citizen Engagement and Public Services: Why Neighbourhoods Matter

    ** Vibrant Local Leadership

    Notes:

    1. Both of today's publications can be found on the ODPM website.

    Press Enquiries: 020 7944 3042 Out of Hours: 020 7944 5945

    E-mail: press.office@odpm.gov.uk

    Public Enquiries: 020 7944 4400

    Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Website: http:www.odpm.gov.uk

    GNNREF: 110004

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