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Councillors

Volume 495: debated on Wednesday 1 July 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the timetable is for implementation of each proposal contained in his Department's response to the Councillors Commission. (282746)

The Councillors Commission Report ‘Representing the Future’ published in December 2007 made a number of recommendations aimed at central Government and a range of other partners and stakeholders. We published a response to ‘Representing the Future’ in July 2008 which set out who was taking forward which recommendations and how.

The Local Government Association, Improvement and Development Agency and the Leadership Centre for local government are taking forward the following actions, which were aimed at local authorities:

Raising awareness of councils and councillors and what they do

Support for councillors' role as a link between the local authority and the community

Role descriptions for councillors

Engagement with young people

Training and support for councillors and potential councillors

Promoting the councillor role to employers

Recognising and accrediting service

Exit interviews for councillors

Better allowance information.

Other recommendations were aimed specifically at political parties, the BBC and Ofcom, and employers and we trust that they are taking forward their commitments in response to these.

The Government are taking forward the following actions.

Recommendation

Action

Recommendation 1—Introduce a statutory duty to promote democracy

This is being taken forward in the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill (Clauses 1-9) which recently completed Committee stage in the House of Commons. We intend for the duty to be implemented in April 2010.

Recommendations 6 and 7—Work with Third Sector on Councillor Communications

The Empowerment Fund is funding third sector organisations Urban Forum and Bassac over three years from 2009-10 to 2011-12 to carry out work under the theme of improving communications between councillors and citizens.

Recommendation 11—Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Women Councillors Taskforce

This was launched in May 2008. 13 outreach events have been held across the country to date reaching over 800 women. In April 2009, the first national councillor mentoring/shadowing scheme was launched as part of the Taskforce project. This scheme is for 50 women with an additional 50 places on an e-training learning programme to obtain a community leadership qualification.

Recommendations 12, 30 and 46—Revise the publicity code and associated guidance

Consultation on this finished in mid March. Consultation included a question on whether specific guidance on councillors’ support needs to be clarified. Government are currently looking at the consultation findings and will decide what, if any, revisions are to be made and the timetable for any revisions.

Recommendations 13, 14—New Secondary curriculum and revision of Primary curriculum; Young Mayors and Young Advisors

QCA are currently running a consultation on proposed reforms to the primary curriculum including citizenship - the consultation closes on 24 July 2009. From January 2010, schools will be assisted with implementation by a comprehensive support package to aid them in planning for the new curriculum. The new curriculum began rolling out in secondary schools from September 2008, beginning with Key Stage 3. Changes to the Key Stage 4 curriculum begin rolling out in September 2009 in line with changes to GCSEs. Young Mayors: CLG will be inviting applications in July from local authorities who would like to host a Young Mayor scheme. Details of successful applicants will be announced in late August. Young Advisors: CLG has supported the Young Advisors Charity to extend the Young Advisors scheme to more local areas. There are now 41 schemes operating across the country at a local level with around 400 trained Young Advisors.

Recommendation 23—Revising politically restricted posts

Amendments to the Widdicombe rules removing the salary bar have been taken forward in the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill, which is currently being considered by Parliament.

Recommendation 29—Work with audit commission on CAAs to consider how council leadership reflects the community

The CAA guidance for inspectorate staff makes specific reference in its section on empowerment to the Network of Empowering Authorities framework, which provides a benchmark for an ‘ideal’ authority. The framework includes ‘strong democracy’ as a key success factor setting out that an ideal authority would be where 'community involvement encourages more people to take on governance roles and stand for office. Members and officers proactively promote democracy, raising understanding and awareness among citizens and young people’. The accompanying diagnostic questions include: ‘Does the profile of your Members reflect that of your local population?’

Recommendation 51—Accreditation

In addition to work being developed by the local government sector, we are taking forward a review of accreditation as part of the Take Part programme of work. A review was completed in February 2009 and proposals for taking forward an accreditation programme are being currently being considered.

Recommendation 52--Alderwomen

During the passage of the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill (LDEDC Bill) an Opposition amendment was laid in the House of Lords regarding the use of the title “alderwomen” and this is now included in the Bill.

Recommendation 56—Parish and Town Councillors

The Department is funding NALC to conduct an annual survey of the profiles of parish councillors, including analysis and dissemination. Councils that have achieved Quality Status (over 650) will be surveyed in 2009-10 and all parish councils (over 9,000) in 2010-11.

Provisions for loss of office payments, remote attendance at council meetings and remote voting, and voting incentives were originally to be included in a draft Community Empowerment Bill. Given the stage of the parliamentary cycle, we have decided to concentrate our energy on the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill, which contains the major proposals from the Councillors Commission, and not to publish a draft Empowerment Bill. We therefore have no current plans for legislation to implement these proposals.