Town hall shake-up in Queens Speech

18 Nov 99
The government will put local government political reorganisation on the fast track next week when it publishes the bill that will pave the way for directly elected mayors.

19 November 1999

Government sources said that the bill, announced in the Queen's Speech on November 17, will be published on November 25 and would not be 'a repetition' of the white paper, Local Leadership, Local Choice, published in March.

One surprise it may contain is to give councils more than the current three choices of political model: a directly elected mayor with either a cabinet or city manager, or just a cabinet-style system. Local government representatives have argued for new arrangements to reflect local needs and it appears they may have persuaded the government on this.

Ministers are also thought to be drawing up plans for 'model constitutions' that could be used by councils to check the development of their emerging political systems. Just over 80 authorities, out of 410 in England and Wales, have begun implementing reforms as laid out in the white paper.

Despite consistently poor turnouts at local government elections, proportional representation will not be included.

Don Foster, Liberal Democrat shadow environment secretary, said Labour had 'missed the point on local government reform', claiming councils needed 'fair votes'.

Sir Jeremy Beecham, chairman of the Local Government Association, said the bill would allow the LGA to 'work with the government to reinvigorate local democracy'.

The government legislative programme outlined in the Queen's Speech also included plans for councils to introduce congestion charges to help alleviate transport problems.


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