"1. Local authorities should be charged with a statutory duty to facilitate local democratic engagement by:
a) proactively disseminating clear and accessible information on how local governance works: what councils and councillors do; what the
responsibilities of other agencies are; how local agencies relate to one another (or not); even how to register to vote and how exactly to vote;
b) facilitating more active civic participation in a range of areas (such as tenant and residents’ associations, school governorship etc). This may well require a more specific capacity building/community development approach;
c) raising interest in and providing information on how to stand as a councillor;
d) proactively promoting the role of councillor and the activities of elected members.
Principal authorities should also provide information and facilitate democratic engagement in respect of the parish and town council tier."
This is a manifesto for increasing the £450 million pound budget councils already spend on publicity. Powerful and effective councillors would be the best advert for the importance of the role of councillors. Publicity spending will just waste more taxpayers' money on adverts people are quite capable of ignoring.
"2. The LGA/IDeA should develop and provide a framework of advice and best practice guidance for this new function."
A spin bureaucracy.
"3. In order to ensure that as many people as possible can participate in local representative democracy, the role of a councillor must be compatible with fulltime employment and an executive councillor with full or part-time employment. The leader of a council should be able to work in addition to council duties; it is recognised that some leaders of larger authorities may wish to work full-time on council duties, but they should not be required to do so."
Combining serious local leadership with a full-time job and other responsibilities is going to be hard. Wishing this away in a recommendation utterly ducks the hard issues this report should have been addressed.
"4. Local authorities must recognise that elected councillors provide crucial two-way links between local councils and their communities. They carry into the council the views of the public and explain the decisions of the council to the public. As such, they must be given the tools to work effectively at the interface of local representative and participatory democratic processes."
"5. Local authorities, in conjunction with guidance from the LGA, should develop and introduce clear role descriptions of what is expected of councillors. Similar role definitions should be developed in conjunction with NALC for the parish and town council tier."
This will mean that instead of spending time that the report acknowledges is scarce to run local authorities or improve their skills councillors will be engaged in an interminable progress of redefining their own place in the world.
"6. Local authorities need to recognise the importance of direct contact between councillors and the public and assist councillors to be more visible and accessible in their locality by:
a) providing and supporting opportunities for democratic engagement where councillors can meet with their constituents face to face;
b) placing councillors at the heart of well-supported area and neighbourhood based structures;
c) utilising councillor-led scrutiny processes to enable councillors to interact with their communities;
d) making much more active use of digital and social networking technologies."