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Local Democracy Research Centre

A manifesto for councillors 


Author: Colin Copus: Emeritus Professor of Local Politics, De Montfort University, England  Visiting Professor at Ghent University, Belgium 

This paper has been prepared for the Local Democracy Research Centre to stimulate debate about the future role of councillors. It will help to form the basis of future discussion forums among LGIU members as well as experts within in outside of local government in England. We welcome any responses. 



In July 2021 the government announced a new impetus to the faltering devolution agenda by proposing new ‘county deals’ with the focus on ‘strong local leaders’ - county elected mayors perhaps? While more detail is promised in the ‘Levelling up’ white paper, it is clear these deals will have an economic focus but are also intended to bring decision-making closer to the public (  


What is set out is this paper is a challenge to the government to be genuinely bold and radical and for devolution to mean devolution, not decentralisation. The paper is intended to stimulate debate about how the role of the councillor is changing and what new powers, freedoms and autonomy councillors need to be able to govern and lead their communities in the spirit of this latest devolution announcement. It is for these reasons the paper is entitled: A Manifesto for Councillors.  


The Manifesto is presented as the starting point for a debate about how to empower all councillors to be strong local leaders as all councillors have leadership roles, not just those with the official title ‘leader’. It draws on a recent report of the Council of Europe (2021) and the De Montfort University Councillor Commission (2017). The recommendations from those reports have been provocatively strengthened and developed to stimulate debate about how serious we are that devolution should fundamentally change the governance of England and how much we want to allow councillors to really lead locally. 

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