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TORY CONFERENCE: 'ERA OF LOCALISM ACROSS THE POLITICAL DIVIDE'

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LGC political editor Nick Golding summarises yesterday's debates at the Conservative party annual conference in Bou...
LGC political editor Nick Golding summarises yesterday's debates at the Conservative party annual conference in Bournemouth

David Cameron's call for local government to be at the centre of a new culture of civic responsibility has raised hopes of a new localist consensus.

The Conservative leader's call for local decision making to replace central and regional initiatives comes after Gordon Brown enthusiastically proclaimed himself to be pro-devolution. The Liberal Democrats have long advocated more freedom for councils.

Mr Cameron endorsed 'community self-improvement', insisting: 'Our response, based on the philosophy of social responsibility, is to trust local leaders, not undermine them.

Click here for his full speech.

Local Government Association chairman Sandy Bruce-Lockhart commented: 'We are looking forward to an era of localism across the political divide.

'We are bringing in for the first time in generations, the era of devolved political choice.'

But he warned the warm words needed to be backed up by action.

LYONS COULD PROVE A DISAPPOINTMENT

Meanwhile, Lord Bruce-Lockhart told a fringe meeting: 'I've been a little confused by what Michael Lyons has been saying in recent weeks.

'He's a great friend of local government but there seems to be a slight backing away from that strong devolution of powers. What he's been saying is that local government must have the confidence to use the flexibilities it already has.'

COUNCILS COULD GET NEW ROLE IN COMMISSIONING OF HEALTH SERVICES

Local government had to have a stronger input to ensure devolution of NHS decision making was regarded as 'local choice', rather than a 'postcode lottery'.

Stephen Dorrell, the co-chair of the party's public service policy improvement group, said: 'There's less tolerance of diversity in local outcomes in the NHS than there is in services delivered by local, elected authorities. We are looking at how to enhance local democratic accountability.'

Ensuring local and individual choice over health services would be as crucial to the next Tory government.

Lord Bruce-Lockhart said: 'I don't think we have a role in setting policy objectives on drugs and that side of things but when you come to community health and health improvement, we are partners.'

* See this week's LGC for full coverage from the Conservative conference

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