11 June 2004
The Local Government Association is to reform radically its member structure, replacing its 'static and old-fashioned' committees with cross-cutting boards in an attempt to widen its influence on government.
The move, which has been under consultation since April, will see the LGA's 19 executive committees and policy review groups abolished. These will be replaced by six cross-cutting boards covering improvement, safer communities, children and education, adult health and social services, sustainable communities and regeneration, reflecting the policy direction of government.
The final details are to be decided next week in the aftermath of the local elections and will be ratified on July 6 at the LGA's annual general meeting.
The changes mark a major departure for the association, which has been wedded to a very traditional structure and system of patronage. It has been largely dominated by the same leading members since its inception in 1997.
An LGA insider told Public Finance that the current arrangements were 'all about whoever's in the job' and were less about expertise. 'These members work hard and do good jobs but they have to be briefed and are not as convincing when talking to ministers.
They aren't as effective or impressive as more leading-edge members,' the insider added.
John Rees, the LGA's director of central services, conceded that the current structure was 'relatively static and old-fashioned' but added that members were very much in favour of the change.
He said the new boards would have smaller 'task groups' carrying out projects and policy work. These would be used to attract a wider variety of councillors and utilise their experience and expertise. 'We are trying to see if we can involve more members, especially those busy in their own authorities who find it difficult to commit themselves.'
He added that the LGA wanted to improve its 'dialogue' with government.