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STRAW URGES IMAGINATION AND EXPERIMENTATION

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Councils should experiment with internal management and 'take heart' from the government's recent 'language of dece...
Councils should experiment with internal management and 'take heart' from the government's recent 'language of decentralisation', Shadow Environment Secretary Jack Straw said in his speech to guests of LGC's annual dinner last week. Mr Straw praised a joint central and local government paper, published in July, which recommends experiments in the internal management of councils. He said it was one of the best and most imaginative government reports in the past decade. Council members and administrators, who had so far paid the paper insufficient attention, should now co-operate with the initiative, he said. Mr Straw suggested LGC offer awards for the best experiments in internal management.

'It is ludicrous for us to think that the only way to run the council is the way it happened to be organised some time in the last century, which is through committees. 'What is of great importance is that all members of councils start to look at their methods of operation and don't be transfixed by what was determined 20 or 50 or 100 years ago', Mr Straw said.

He said he was personally attracted to the idea of elected mayors but admitted: 'I don't carry my party with me on this'. In an uncharacteristically conciliatory speech, Mr Straw also detected 'the beginning of a change in attitude' in the government towards local autonomy.

He criticised ministers' plans - announced on the same day as his speech - for integrated regional offices with greater local discretion because civil servants rather than elected members would run the new regions. However, he welcomed ministerial talk of taking power from Whitehall to the localities. 'This language that was used today represents a triumph for local government and for the resilience of the ideal of local government', he said.
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