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Views of the week: 8 October 2009

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LGC rounds up the best comment, analysis and opinion from the past week.

Click on the headlines for more…

The Guardian’s Simon Jenkins on the need for stronger local politicians

The police were in the firing line following the jury verdict on the Pilkington deaths - but, asks Mr Jenkins, why are they the sole representative of community authority? Where is civic leadership?

Fiona Pilkington’s parish councillor would not even reveal his name. In France, Germany, Italy or Spain, the first recourse would have been to the mayor or councillor. Yet Westminster hates the idea of stronger local institutions.

An MP of my acquaintance says he phones the police far more often than his council with problems. Sensing this shift, the Tories are even proposing to elect police chiefs, but not mayors. They sense a democratic vacuum but dare not fill it with real politics.

LGC says: During the Pilkington case the police quickly sought to pass responsibility for antisocial behaviour to the council. In reality, it can only be tackled with joint working and this case reveals the significant challenges to achieving this.

The Times’s Jill Kirby on ASBOs

In reality ASBOs have simply delayed the point at which enforcing action is taken on antisocial behaviour, says Ms Kirby, director of the Centre for Policy Studies. Gordon Brown’s latest offering - an intensive programme for many of the “50,000 most chaotic families” - is empty talk.

Police forces cannot find time to log complaints, and local councils are too overwhelmed by their caseloads.

Mr Brown deludes himself that his government has the key to an orderly society. There is no substitute for regular policing - and you cannot rebuild society and restore neighbourhood values with another set of pre-election initiatives.

The Time’s Daniel Finkelstein on Labour’s uphill struggle

Labour’s attempts to tell their story and reinforce their successes is doomed, says Mr Finkelstein. People are well aware of the story, and that’s the problem - it is just not an election winner. If it were, the party would not be on 26% or so in the opinion polls. Voters already harbour doubts about the Tories. But they intend to vote for them anyway because they don’t want Labour any more.

They want change. Labour stands a chance only if it shows that it understands this, if it shows that it is willing and able to change.

The Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland on New Labour’s legacy

Strangely, says Mr Freedland, Gordon Brown has abandoned the trait that once defined him - fiscal rectitude. Previously he carpeted any shadow cabinet colleagues who dared make an uncosted spending commitment, yet as concern at the scale of public debt is rising, he was blithely showering money on a new National Care Service. A more New Labour-ish Brown would have spelled it out.

Pick of the Blogs

David Briggs, on DavePress

Social media and local government culture

Should local government be like Apple or Google?

Apple keeps its customers at a distance. It goes to great lengths to prevent users from coming up with suggestions - it knows all the answers. Its products are also damn expensive. So how come they are so popular?

It comes down to user experience. An organisation can succeed if the product is good enough. It would be difficult to argue that any level of government users’experience is there yet.

Google has a more open culture. It has loads of blogs, forums for users to help one another, and a lot of its technology is open source. Its services are free, or close to free. Google is more a platform, or a network, than just a company that sells stuff.

Local government needs to be more like Google. It should explain itself to its users, listen to their views and develop services around their needs. Communications,customer service and service delivery should be part of one single process, each updating the others.

Really, this is less about technology, and more about organisational culture.

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