The Rt Hon David Blunkett is MP for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough, he is also a co-founder of LGiU. Here he argues that optimism and fresh ideas are essential to the future of local democracy.
When 30 years ago we held the first meeting of what was then the Local Government Campaign Unit in the town hall in Sheffield, I would not honestly have believed they as the LGiU would still be going strong.
When as the first chair of the Unit, I set out to offer both a radical voice for those engaged in local government in a variety of guises, and to share best practice and reform, the pressures on local government seemed greater than ever before.
However, the situation today is substantially more grave. Not only has funding been reduced from central government way beyond any other element of central government spending, but the alternative forms of funding have already been exhausted over these past 30 years.
So, raising horizons and providing optimism for the future is crucial, if decent men and women are to stand for, work for or in other ways be engaged in, this critical element of our local democracy.
Thinking afresh, engaging people in decisions in their own neighbourhood and areas of interest and joining together in cross boundary initiatives, can make a difference, both to the potential for meeting need and winning support for, local government. From providing a voice for parents and students in an autonomous school system, through to neighbourhood budgeting and support for self-help and social enterprise programmes, a new role for local government is emerging.
Not quite as new as we think. The early days of local government and the enterprise which was displayed against all the odds, provides at least some comfort at a time of eye-watering austerity, but also an example of how creative those early days of the pioneers really could be.
The LGiU is now crucial in sharing innovation, offering support and helping to retain the morale of those who make both our civil society and the most hands on element of our democracy work. Good luck for the next 30 years.