Memorandum by Improvement and Development
Agency (IDeA) (LGA 23)
1.1 The Improvement and Development Agency
(IDeA) was founded in April 1999, by local government, to work
with it and for it and help it do better.
1.2 The IDeA's mission is to support self
sustaining improvement from within local government.
The agency aims to:
deliver practical solutions to improve
local government performance;
develop innovative approaches to
ensure the transfer of knowledge within local government;
act on behalf of local government
as a whole, building new platforms for joined up, locally delivered,
employ first rate staff to meet the
needs and priorities of our customers;
work with our customers in a way
which respects diversity and promotes equalities.
1.3 The work of the IDeA is directed by
a widely representative board of directors. It includes councillors
from the Conservative, Labour, and Liberal Democrat parties as
well as an Independent representative. The Society of Local Authority
Chief Executives (SOLACE) has a place, as does the Trades Union
Congress, Audit Commission, representatives from academia and
the private sector, regional employers and the Society of Chief
Personnel Officers (SOCPO).
1.4 The recent White Paper, "Strong
Local LeadershipQuality Public Services" recognised
and welcomed work undertaken by the IDeA. It noted the significant
contribution of the Local Government Improvement Programme (LGIP)
and the online initiatives such as IDeA Knowledge and Learning.
1.5 This submission relates to the role
of elected members in light of the local Government Act 2000.
Evidence is based on the second census of councillors undertaken
by the IDeA and the Employer's Organisation (EO). The submission
also notes IDeA services designed to support members, including
our latest initiatives to the findings of the census. The agency
hopes that this information will be of interest and value to the
2. NATIONAL CENSUS
2.1 The IDeA would therefore like to draw
the committee's attention to a recent census of all local authority
councillors. The agency believes that the results of this census
highlight an increasing need to support members and invigorate
entry into public office by groups in society currently under
represented. This is particularly valid in light of the enhanced
role of councillors arising from the Local Government Act 2000.
2.2 The IDeA and the Employer's Organisation
(EO) commissioned the second national census of local authority
councillors in terms of:
Education and qualifications
Membership of other councils
2.3 Replies to the census questionnaire
were received from 374 (91.2 per cent) of the 410 authorities
in England and Wales and from 12,013 (56.5 per cent) of the 21,268
councillors in office after the May 2001 elections. The survey
results show grossed (by authority type) estimates for all 21,268
councillors in office in May 2001. Comparisons are shown for the
21,268 councillors in office in May 2001 and the 21,498 councillors
in office in May 1997 in the first National Census.
2.4 Councillors in office in May 2001 were
predominantly male (71 per cent), and were aged over 45 (86 per
cent). 2.5 per cent of councillors were members of an ethnic minority.
Of those in employment (52 per cent) the majority (61 per cent)
worked in the private sector and over half (65 per cent) were
in managerial/executive or professional/technical jobs. Large
proportions held a degree (32 per cent) or a professional qualification
(20 per cent). 56 per cent held school governorships. Nearly half
(46 per cent) were on an overview and scrutiny committee.
2.5 Since 1997, Councillors have become
slightly older, 57 years (56 years); more likely to have a disability
13 per cent (11 per cent) and be a full-time councillor 30 per
cent (25 per cent). They were less likely to be a member of an
ethnic minority 2.5 per cent (3.0 per cent) or to have a caring
responsibility 28 per cent (34 per cent).
2.6 Copies of the National Census of Local
Councillors are available at www.idea.gov.uk/member/census or
contact Edward Roddis (Tel: 0207 296 6585).
3.1 The census highlights that the pool
of people willing to serve as elected members is diminishing in
terms of their demographic representation of society.
3.2 The IDeA fully recognises and applauds
the commitment and dedication of existing elected members. However,
the agency suggests that a broader base of demographic representation
is needed to maintain and develop civic renewal.
3.3 The Local Government Act 2000 gave members
the responsibility to lead the economic, social and environmental
well being of their local communities. The welcome freedoms that
are emerging as a result place a heightened level of responsibility
on councillors. This places an even greater emphasis on the need
for widening the pool of individuals prepared to stand as elected
4.1 Change is needed in three areas in order
to invigorate a broader demographic base: persuasion, promotion
4.2 In terms of persuasion, the role of
political parties is fundamental to increasing the range of people
willing to serve as councillors. 95 per cent of councillors of
first and second tier authorities are representatives of the main
political parties. Changing the composition of the councillor
population will require the commitment of all parties and independent
groups. Further, political parties should act as "talent
scouts" and not "gatekeepers".
4.3 In terms of promotion, it is important
to recognise the individual and collective rewards of serving
as a councillor. There are several national accolades for Parliamentarians,
but the IDeA is not aware of comparable awards for recognition
for leading councillors.
4.4 Also regarding promotion, the IDeA has
developed a Member Development Charter in association with the
CBI, LGA, TUC, British Chambers of Commerce, Commission for Racial
Equality, Equal Opportunities Commission and others. It was designed
in response to new challenges within local government, such as
those presented by the Local Government Act 2000. It asks councils
to provide a minimum of five days training and development through
individual learning accounts for members and support those with
family and work commitments. For their part, business and public
sector partners agreed to support and encourage their employees
to become councillors so that authorities can tap into a broader
base of experience. Their involvement was advocated in the declaration
on political services devised by the Industry and Parliament Trust.
4.5 Member's time is of course at a premium,
particularly where the councillor is in full time employment.
For this reason, use of their time can be maximised through new
technologies such as video conferencing.
4.6 The Good Employers Award created by
the IDeA also promotes the role of councillors and encourages
a more diverse range of members by encouraging people of working
age to enter local government.
4.7 In terms of legislation, the Sex Discrimination
Act currently progressing through Parliament will allow political
parties to promote all women shortlists for selections at local,
Parliamentary and European elections. Each party will have to
decide if this is their preferred route but the experience in
France last year may be relevant. The French Government introduced
legislation which meant that all political parties had to nominate
women candidates for 50 per cent of all council selections. Despite
objections from all parties, the legislation meant that the required
numbers of women candidates were found. Compulsion through legislation
is clearly the least desirable option. However, it is evident
that political parties and other organisations may need to review
their selection processes.
5.1 The IDeA provides a range of services
designed to support councillors. Relative to the Local Government
Act 2000, these include practical publications such as "A
Councillor's Guide 2001" and "A Practitioners Guide
to Overview and Scrutiny". Other initiatives include:
Leadership Academya modular
programme designed to maximise the political, organisational and
community skills of leading members
Fast Track Scheme for future local
leadersaimed at addressing issues of concern identified
in the National Census of Local Councillors. The scheme will identify
councillors under 35 to attend a fast track development scheme
that will build leadership capacity within local government. The
scheme will be launched in the autumn with places for 40 applicants.
Over five years, the scheme will build a pool of 200 councillors
from all parties and groups.
Good Employers Awardaims to
encourage more people of working age to stand as councillors by
recognising businesses that support employees who want to become
6.1 The IDeA welcomes the opportunity to
draw the committee's attention to the National Census of Local
6.2 Appropriate staff from the agency are
of course willing to provide oral evidence to the committee on
this matter or other matters concerning local government.