The Local Government Association was set up 11 years ago as the single voice of opinion, lobbying and leadership for England’s authorities.
This collective voice has helped to thaw relations with Whitehall and steer a course that appeals to all the disparate parts of local government.
Its value in shielding its 400 members from the harsh buffeting of the national political parties shouldn’t be underestimated, particularly in the run-up to a general election.
So the final fragmentation of the LGA’s executive and political voice, broken exclusively on LGCplus on Friday , should sound alarm bells across local government.
It was no secret that relations between chief executive Paul Coen and the group leaders had cooled, particularly over the slow progress of the local government family restructure. Senior leaders had sounded warnings over poor morale several months ago, while the handling of the Iceland crisis merely added to a growing lack of confidence.
It is unprecedented for the association to oust its own chief executive, but these are unprecedented times. The question now is: will the removal of Mr Coen put the association back on track, or are there more fundamental issues such as future policy and leadership to resolve?
The association can’t lose sight of the importance of the next 12-18 months - there is much to gain for local government and much for it to lose.
The creeping circumvention of councils through directly elected police representatives can only be tackled by a powerful, collective voice, while local politicians must unite to fight for localism within the national parties.
Now is not the time for internal division or soul-searching, 2009 will be a crucial year with the parties polishing their blueprints for a future local government. The sector must influence and lead, not follow.
LGC would like to wish all our readers a happy Christmas. We’ll be taking a break until 15 January, but keep up-to-the-minute with LGCplus.