PUBLIC SECT0R: LGA sets five-year target for comms goals

The Local Government Association (LGA) has celebrated its fifth birthday with a pledge to achieve three lobbying and communications goals within five years.

The body, which was established in 1997 to promote better local government, has published five targets to raise the status of local authorities by the end of 2006. Three of these challenges fall within the remit of director of strategy and communications Phil Swan.

Firstly, Swan's team will aim to convince government departments to deregulate councils, hand powers to them and increase councils' financial autonomy.

Secondly, it will seek to promote how council services can improve lives, particularly those of older people and vulnerable children.

And thirdly, it will attempt to boost awareness within central government, the media and other opinion-formers of councils' achievements.

Swan said his team is seeking to reinforce the findings of the recent local government white paper, which advocated a greater role for local government in delivering central government strategies.

However, Swan admitted that not all government departments support plans for devolving power. He named the Home Office, the Department for Health, the Department for Education and Skills, and the Department for Work and Pensions as departments that would be targeted by his team's lobbying push.

'Some government departments want nationally prescribed solutions when the issue is different in each area. They can profess to set about transforming secondary education but the needs are different in each area and the local authority is usually best placed to assess those needs,' he said.

Swan added: 'The LGA has not devoted a great deal of time to promoting the achievements of councils. Good work undertaken in local government needs to appear in national newspapers.'

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