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Paper 8 - 4 June 1999 Meeting

ASSOCIATION OF HAMPSHIRE AND ISLE OF WIGHT LOCAL AUTHORITIES

4 June 1999

REVIEW OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION MEMBER STRUCTURES

Report by Policy Manager

RECOMMENDATION

That members consider the LGA's consultation on member structures.

SUMMARY

The LGA has reviewed its member structures and decided its existing committee structure is "to big, too cumbersome and takes up too much time for too little result". This paper outlines the consultation on a revised structure for the LGA.

INTRODUCTION

1. The Local Government Association committed itself to a review of its member structures within two years of its foundation. The LGA recognised in 1997 that the key task of fusing the predecessor organisations together meant that some of the more radical structural options had to be rejected in order to create one organisation and one voice. This imperative tended to reinforce traditional approaches to organisation. The LGA has now reviewed its member structures and put out a consultation in Circular 220/99 seeking responses by 8 June 1999.

RESULTS OF THE REVIEW

2. The review concluded that "the current arrangements for the LGA require large numbers of members to travel to London for meetings but do not facilitate real involvement. The size of committees prevents effectiveness. The commitment to involvement which the current structure attempts to achieve is not real. There are over 1,000 places on LGA committees, panels etc. but the large proportion of cross membership of the various member bodies means that the extent of involvement is significantly less. 79 authorities are not involved in any LGA committee at all."

3. The review concluded that the structure must change in order to support:

an Association which is quick on its feet,

an Association which engages individual authorities to a greater extent.

KEY FEATURES OF THE NEW STRUCTURE

4. The consultation paper outlines the new structure as follows:-

(1) There should be a small national executive body to co-ordinate policy, steer and manage the LGA and be capable of rapid response.

(2) Policy forums should replace committees and panels. They should be fewer in number than the existing committees/panels; they should have a core of 50/60 members and adopt innovative ways of working to involve a broad spectrum of members; their function should be deliberation and policy development; they should cover both "service" and "cross-cutting" areas.

(3) Each policy forum should have a small executive for day to day business.

(4) Task groups should be made creatively for fast, short-life, policy development and to promote particular policy initiatives.

(5) Regional mechanisms should be used flexibly for two-way communication providing forums for deliberation, feedback, information and sharing good practice.

(6) The urban and rural commissions should remain.

THE ROLE OF POLICY FORUMS

5. Policy forums might cover the following areas:

Environment and regeneration
Education and life long learning
Europe and international affairs
Fire Service
Housing
Human Resources
Leisure and Tourism
Strategy (including finance)
Public protection and community safety
Social affairs and health (including drugs)
Social exclusion

Some forums could have more than one executive steering particular areas of work. The Environment and Regeneration Forum would have executives for planning, waste management, transport and economic development as well as for Environment and Regeneration. The list of policy forums would need to be reviewed annually to ensure that forums keep pace with the major policy areas of the day.

6. "Forums would not operate like committees. They should be deliberative and consultative, and not decision-making. They would not have long agendas and lots of paper." Their role would be to develop and communicate policy, rather than to implement it. The consultation paper asks:

Should membership of the forums be appointed or open?

Need all policy forums be the same size/appointed in the same way?

If they are not decision-making bodies could they be cross-party but not strictly proportional, so long as a minimum number of places is guaranteed to the minority parties?

Should group meetings take place after, rather than before, meetings of the policy forum so that discussion is not limited by predetermined positions?

7. "The Strategy/Finance Forum will probably be formed on a different basis than other forums in order to achieve co-ordination of the policy work of the Association. It should be composed of an appropriate mix of LGA Group Leaders, Leaders of Authorities and representatives of the executives of the policy forums." This Forum will have its own strategy/finance executive, and in addition the consultation paper suggests both an Equalities executive and an executive group to deal with "housekeeping".

THE ROLE OF EXECUTIVES

8. The executives would have a steering role in relation to officer action, lobbying, policy, communications, day-to-day business. "Executives should be as small as possible; the present "building block" to achieve political proportionality is 10 for some services and 11 members for others." Executives would meet frequently (say, once a month).

IMPLEMENTATION

9. Depending on the results of the consultation, some changes could be made quickly and others may take longer. For example the executives for each policy forum could be elected at the annual meeting in July.

10. Policy forums could be introduced from September if they do not require a new appointment process. Transitional arrangements could build on the existing experience and expertise of members involved currently in the LGA's work.

11. "Existing task groups should be reviewed and terminated when their task is complete."

CONCLUSION

12. The consultation paper concludes that "formal structures matter less than new and better forms of communication, a willingness by all authorities to contribute to policy formulation and debate and trust and confidence in the leadership of the Association."

Note: The above is an abridged version of the consultation paper. The full consultation paper is available from the LGA, or from HIOW, or from individual Chief Executives.

NICK GOULDER 
Policy Manager

Last update: 11/10/2000
Author: Nick Goulder, Policy Manager

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