Councils to be banned from lobbying at party conferences

PR Week has the story:

‘We are setting out clear rules banning councils using taxpayers’ cash to lobby government and this includes publicity stalls at conferences,’ [Local Government Minister Grant] Shapps said. He also called for councils to disclose how much taxpayers’ money is being spent on overall comms.

Gordon Brown at Labour Party conference. Photo credit: ChodHound on FlickrAlthough I have been very critical of Knowsley Council for its spending on Labour conference (and only Labour, even now in opposition), I am not won over by the first part of this policy, which smacks rather too much of micromanagement.

Central government decisions can have a huge impact on local government, so the idea of local government wanting to influence central government is perfectly acceptable. The second part of the policy – disclosure of communications spending – is a good move.

But the choice of methods should be for the council to decide, the public to know and the ballot box and public pressure to keep accountable.

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  • Certainly councils do have a stake in decisions made, but there’s a real problem of ruling groups misusing the comms/campaigns budgets. Better than blanket bans would be the introduction of a requirement for unanimity or big supermajorities within councils on these decisions.

  • If Pickles doesn’t want councils lobbying central government will he be banning them from paying their subscriptions to the LGA?

  • all I have to say 2nd Oct '10 - 1:55pm

    So much for localism.

    NB: It’s not Pickles who is doing this, it is the government and that means the Lib Dems too.

  • Wasn’t the 2M group opposing a third Heathrow runway effectively a council lobbying group? Wasn’t their campaign hugely successful? Does the Government think that local London councils should have just meekly surrendered to the Labour Govt’s proposals and not bothered to represent the views of their electorates?

    The Government has to recognise that local politicians have their own mandates from their own electorates. If they are effectively banned from doing things which they see as in the interests of their electorates as opposed to the so called “national interest”, then their positions might as well be abolished as a money saving measure.

  • matt severn 2nd Oct '10 - 4:44pm

    Good. Can we also see a scrapping of council propaganda sheets?

  • Conferences are what – once or twice a year. Does that mean that councils aren’t putting forward their views in the intervening period? If not why not, if they are then why do they need to spend money on a lobby stall at conference?

  • Tony Greaves 3rd Oct '10 - 4:46pm

    It makes you laugh. Pickles trumpets he is “setting Councils free”, Unless they do things that get up his nose.

    Tony Greaves

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