2011 will be the year of councillor power, Midlands Majority and a new standard for tweeting politicians?

Happy New Year to one and all – I hope everyone feels refreshed from the winter break. Here’s a few interesting stories that have been passed around the LGIU office this morning.

2011 will be the year of councillor power” says Schapps. Harry Phibbs writes on ConservativeHome’s Local Government blog that “ludicurous” planning rules which restrict councillors from taking part in planning decisions will be scrapped. The local government minister has also said that he wants “to encourage a new generation of community champions to put their names on the ballot paper for May’s local elections.”

New standard for tweeting politicians? Two interesting posts here about the tweeting mayor of Newark, N.J. Cory Booker. After the blizzard blanketed the Northeast on Dec. 26,  Booker turned the microblogging site into a public-service tool. One person let Booker know via Twitter that the snowy streets were preventing his sister from buying diapers. About an hour later, Booker was at the sister’s door, diapers in hand.  “I hope more elected officials discover the power of Twitter,” Booker told TIME. “It truly is an effective way to connect with the body politic.” 

Scott Hiefermann then blogged his thoughts on Booker’s approach, saying that the major was “modeling what he wants citizens to do: engage”. Should politicians who preach the Big Society be the first ones to offer their services for voluntary community work?

Midlands Majority – Leicester opts for elected mayor. First out of the blocks, Labour-controlled Leicester City Council has decided that it will governed by a directly elected mayor in a matter of months. The decision was made after an online consultation in which 357 backed the mayor option, with 344 against and the rest (43) offering no opinion or alternative. The mayor will be responsible for all decisions about council services for a four-year period and would personally select up to nine councillors to form a supporting cabinet.

More C’llr Achievement Awards mentions. A number of local and hyperlocal news services ran articles on the C’ll Achievement Awards. These information providers add real value to local democracy and can help citizens take more control over their lives. We’re delighted to feature in their content and will be trying to do our bit to promote their work in 2011. In fact we’ll make it a New Year resolution.

    1. Tweets certainly create new PR opportunities for directly elected mayors as the Booker story shows. This is generally a good thing – politicians must use every opportunity to improve their image and demonstrate that they are doing something useful, even if it is just buying diapers for the children of their electorate. This requirement applies in particular to directly elected mayors – as one German mayor once told me “you do not have to be good but you need to be popular” (which is why he gave out small local Schnaps bottles at every opportunity). However, the Baden-Württemberg local electoral system shows that it takes a lot of maturity on behalf of the electorate to value competence, not just PR skills. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the UK.

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