Recent years have seen a major local government modernisation programme with: constitutional recognition and guaranteed local elections; record levels of funding; strengthened political and management structures; an updated legal framework along with legislation last year to end the dual mandate; and an efficiency agenda focused on improved corporate planning, IT, human resources and customer service. As part of this ongoing programme, new financial management systems, facilitating better financial management and planning, have been successfully rolled out to local authorities.
In addition, I have recently announced a new initiative to improve service standards with an extended range of performance indicators and independent verification. I will shortly commission a major independent study to identify future funding requirements and options for local government and I envisage that public consultation will form one element of this study.
The continued development of the county and city development board system is already providing a wider role for local government. Through these development boards local authorities have a central role in bringing together at local level the various public agencies, social partners and local development bodies and in developing, overseeing and monitoring an integrated strategy for the economic, social and cultural development of their areas. Further measures to be announced shortly will reinforce the boards in fulfilling their role.
It is my aim, over the lifetime of the Government, to build on progress to date and to carry forward a significant change agenda for local government, including a wider role, secure funding, improved effectiveness, efficiency and performance and proper democratic input.