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ASSOCIATION OF HAMPSHIRE AND ISLE OF WIGHT LOCAL AUTHORITIES
25 September 1998
MODERN LOCAL GOVERNMENT WHITE PAPER
Report by the Policy Officer
That the Association aims to provide added value to the development and implementation of the White Paper proposals by:
(1) Providing a forum for debate and comment
(2) Developing joint programmes for public awareness about local democratic choices, and sharing best practice on improving turnout at elections
(3) Developing the new ethical framework
(4) Jointly commenting as necessary on the new financial proposals
(5) Developing local approaches to Best Value in partnership with "pilot" authorities
1. The proposals in the White Paper can be divided into six categories:
ways of working and new political structures
local democracy and elections
a new ethical framework
promoting the wellbeing of communities
financial accountability and arrangements
Member authorities are considering what action to take in response to the White Paper at this stage. It is appropriate at the same time to consider what value the Association can add to this work.
WAYS OF WORKING/NEW POLITICAL STRUCTURES
2. New structures for local authorities, and in particular the separation of executive and backbench roles, will have substantial implications for each individual member authority. The Association should be able to give "value added" by providing a forum for the debate which will take place as the new primary legislation is developed and implemented.
LOCAL DEMOCRACY AND ELECTIONS
3. In the two and three tier areas, it will be particularly important to co-ordinate public awareness campaigns, referenda etc. Paragraph 4.13 of the White Paper explains, perhaps over-optimistically, that "local electors will readily understand the new system" of election by halves in alternate years. There may be room for some agreement about systems and awareness campaigns involving all authorities through the Association.
4. It will be important to build on existing joint work. The Association has already endorsed some joint work in this area eg the Citizen Education Programme. The Association can now "add value" by sharing best practice on election organisation initiatives.
NEW ETHICAL FRAMEWORK
5. The Association has already commissioned work through the Chief Executives' Group on model codes and protocols. These are in three fields:
whistleblowing and probity
This work will need to be revisited by the "Ethics Sub-Group" (drawn from member authorities and HAPTC) in the light of the White Paper, subsequent legislation and guidance.
PROMOTING COMMUNITY WELL BEING
6. The Government intends to place a new duty on local authorities to promote community well being. Paragraph 8.12 of the White Paper states "there is an overwhelming need for greater cohesion and coherence at the local level of all those - public sector, business, voluntary bodies - whose activities and efforts can affect local communities". The Association can provide a forum for ensuring best practice. The Association has already considered its approach to Local Agenda 21 in the terms referred to in the White Paper, paragraph 8.15, which states that Local Agenda 21 will complement community planning. We are currently discussing with GOSE, a Government proposal to hold a Hampshire and Isle of Wight conference on LA21 and the White Paper.
7. The Association - as a result of the work of the Chief Financial Officers' Group - commented succinctly and fully on the three consultation papers about finance. There may be a need for the Association to comment jointly on the more detailed proposals as they emerge.
8. The Association has already set up a successful Best Value Network led by Test Valley Borough Council. This network has been joined by Bournemouth and Poole authorities and is a helpful learning and development network for the senior staff involved. The Network prepared the Association's response to the Green Paper. Test Valley Borough Council held a major conference on the subject for members and officers in the area. It is anticipated that this Network will continue to develop Best Value, based partly on the experience of the Best Value pilots in Gosport, Portsmouth and Southampton Councils.
|Author:||Nick Goulder, Policy Manager|
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