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Councils advised to take decision-making out of town hall

A guide released today by the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) and Local Trust has outlined how councillors can promote and better define collaboration with residents in the community.

The report’s findings use eight case studies in England to identify how councillors can better support resident-led projects by facilitating conversations and use their network and influence within the local community.

At a time when devolution is hot on the local government agenda, the report argues that due to increased pressure on council services, authorities needed to take decision-making out of town halls and into the communities.

It goes on to say that to do this effectively, councillors need to take a “backseat” in projects and offer advice and support rather than strong leadership.

The report authors also outlined how community collaboration could act as a reviving force for local democracy and civic engagement, suggesting that residents are the experts in their communities who hold the key to solving local problems.

One example the report picks out is in Luton Arches in Kent, which is one of 150 local areas with £1m long-term funding for a programme of training and support to help residents identify what issues matter the most to them, and then take action to solve them.

“An essential component of local democracy is building strong connections between citizens and the institutions that represent them,” said Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of the LGiU. “By including residents in the conversations that affect their lives, local government builds trust and mutual respect.

“This has never been more important. At a time when trust in public institutions is at a low ebb, councils have a vital role to play in restating and rebuilding the social contract between citizens and their governments.”

And Matt Leach, chief executive of the Local Trust, said: “Our experience of running Big Local, the largest current place-based investment programme in England, means that it’s a conversation we’re passionate about.

“We see this report as being a key tool for Big Local areas and local authorities looking to collaborate positively to deliver great outcomes for their communities.”

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