BLAIR'S CHALLENGE TO LOCAL GOVERNMENT
March 4, 1998
The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, is warning councillors and local government officials that if they fail to modernise, some of their powers could be given to businesses and voluntary organisations. Mr Blair says too many local authorities are mediocre, and there is a lack of coherence in some local services. Tony Blair outlines his "deal" with local councils (38"
He says those councils which are prepared to change could be given improved powers, but those who were not could see their role diminished. Mr Blair took the unusual step of outlining his ideas in a pamphlet for the centre-left think tank the Institute of Public Policy Research. He puts forward the idea of directly elected mayors and referendums on important local issues. There would also be a tough new code of conduct for councillors. Local authority leaders, speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme, give their reaction to the proposals (4'23")
Criticism for Blair's plan
Directly-elected mayors and local referendums are ideas formerly rejected by chairman of the local government Association, Sir Jeremy Beecham. He said he was unhappy about the Prime Minister's indication that he was willing to involve business in local government.
"We do need a more open democracy at all levels in our country," he said. "But we need people who are accountable to the electorate and business, for all its virtues, is not accountable to the public."
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