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Letter: Local leadership

Sir: John Prescott's new White Paper on local government suggests that local authorities are "uniquely placed to provide vision and leadership to local communities". His officials, however, are worried that local authorities will be influenced by local interest groups and will not come to the "right" conclusion (in this case the Department's view on housing requirements).

Does Mr Prescott want local authorities with powers, responsibilities and accountability for their actions; or does he want to be able to intervene whenever he or his officials disagree? Does he want a system of local government or a local agency for his Department?

Regrettably, the overwhelming bulk of legislation in the last 20 years has given successive ministers wide-ranging, subjective powers to intervene and overrule. The number of directly accountable authorities has been overwhelmed by indirectly accountable quangos and other agencies.

The Government is in a unique position to offer a vision of a new constitution for this country and of a genuinely new relationship between central and local government. Is it up to the task?


West Sussex County Council, Chichester