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A survey conducted by SOLACE, CIPFA and ACSS, in conjunction with national law firm Eversheds, focusing on the atti...
A survey conducted by SOLACE, CIPFA and ACSS, in conjunction with national law firm Eversheds, focusing on the attitudes of local authorities towards governance, reveals that most authorities have made significant advances to meet the government's objectives.

With 50% of authorities having or preparing a comprehensive code of governance and over 80% who have introduced them into selected areas, the survey shows that in the run up to the draft legislation, the majority of councils have taken the debate about standards and best practice seriously. Moreover, they are receptive to the need to modernise the democratic structures currently in place.

Roger Vergine, solicitor in Eversheds says: 'Most councils have made progress in advance of the necessary governance legislation, however, it is clear from the survey that despite the flexibility of the government, councils have yet to be convinced that any of the three proposed governance models provide a structure which meets their own requirements and matches their culture.

'The survey suggests that many authorities will opt for the government's cabinet with a leader model, with all its faults, as it is the closest to existing structures. This is not the dramatic re-invigoration of local democracy which is looked for,' says Roger, 'and it must be hoped that the LGA and other national bodies will produce additional models which prove more attractive to authorities. All that is then required is for the government to have the confidence in local authorities to allow them to experiment with a wider range of governance models.'

Main findings of the survey include:

- 92% of councils have a corporate procedure for dealing with ombudsman

- With regard to modernising local democracy, 65% of local authorities are discussing the introduction of executive/scrutiny split in members

- Over a third of councils now have, or are introducing, a standards committee

- 86% have a code following best practice for planning committees, or one in preparation

- 61.7% of councils thought they needed to maintain or increase profile given to probity issues

- A surprising 26.4% of councils do not have a 'whistleblower' code

- Only 53% of councils are taking any initiative on leadership in their community

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