Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence


Written evidence submitted by the Local Government International Bureau (LGIB), the international arm of the Local Government Association for England and Wales

INTRODUCTION

  There have historically been strong links between South Africa and British local government, with significant anti-apartheid campaigns led by UK local authorities. Since 1994 South Africa has faced an unprecedented challenge in redirecting its resources to achieve equity for its very varied communities. Local authority reform has been essential to this process. British and South African local authorities are working together to develop representative services that tackle poverty, while at national level the South African Local Government Association is working with its British counterparts to expand the benefits of such international links.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT IN SOUTH AFRICA

  Since 1994 local government in South Africa has undergone a series of radical reforms. Its role is enshrined in the country's 1996 Constitution which recognises it as an equal `sphere' of government, working alongside provincial and central government with responsibility for the delivery of municipal services. A series of Acts have set out new guidelines for municipal demarcation and structural modernisation, with the number of local authorities being reduced from 843 to 284 in 2000. These local authorities are set out within nine provinces, each of which has a provincial sphere of government.

  The South African Local Government Association is recognised by the Constitution as the national voice of local government. As such, SALGA is consulted on all legislation affecting local government. SALGA itself has undergone substantial changes in response to the rapidly changing landscape of central government in the country. Core to its mandate is the transformation of local government countrywide to fulfil its developmental role.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION COOPERATION

  While there is much international interest in South Africa, SALGA is not fully capitalising on the opportunities presented through international programmes and partnerships within South Africa. In association with the UK's Local Government International Bureau, SALGA is currently establishing a new External Relations Unit to map, coordinate and promote international activities for a beneficial impact on local development.

  A memorandum of understanding has been signed between SALGA and LGIB in commitment to this process of support. The initial phase of the programme saw SALGA and LGIB working together in 2002 to assess the international needs for South African local government. The outcome of this research was the development of a plan for an External Relations Unit, the establishment of which began in April 2003. Over the next three years LGIB will particularly provide support in training a designated partnerships officer, and providing technical assistance in communications and establishing new links.

LOCAL AUTHORITY PARTNERSHIPS

  A varied range of local authority partnerships exist between South Africa and the United Kingdom. While these centre around the sharing of best practice and joint projects for the development of local government capacity, many involve a significant community element. It is recognised that each partner has unique experience to share with the other in an environment of mutual learning. Current partnerships are:

6.1  Leeds—Durban

  This technical link has brought together staff from the two cities on a series of projects which have included security, tourism and regeneration, whilst promoting community-wide learning about each country's culture. Now in its fifth year, the partnership is increasingly active in extending beyond core city council links to incorporate schools, universities, NGOs and community groups. A delegation from the Leeds Initiative, the city's public-private partnership, will visit Durban in autumn 2003, alongside officers working on a new programme of support for small businesses.

6.2  Croydon—Kungwini

  Kungwini municipality has developed an economic department using Croydon as a model. The two counterparts are now exchanging best practice in local regeneration strategies in order to develop an integrated economic regeneration strategy and cross-sector partnership in Kungwini with an emphasis on addressing social and economic inequality. Croydon Council is working with the Borough's Chamber of Commerce on a second trade mission to South Africa following a successful mission in 2002 which was notable for its high ratio of female and ethnic minority delegates. Like its predecessor, the forthcoming mission will incorporate a wide range of businesses in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.

6.3  Birmingham—Johannesburg

  A twin relationship acts as the foundation for these metropolitan city councils to work together on practical issues. The councils, organisations and citizens of Birmingham and Johannesburg are committed to a process of learning from each other. Through the exchange of best practice, information, people and ideas the two cities have become better able to tackle the problems affecting large, constantly changing multi racial and multi ethnic cities. Focusing on education, governance and job creation both councils continue to collaborate on delivering the vibrant, learning modern cities within which we all want to live and work.

6.4  Lewisham—Ekurheleni

  This new partnership is in the early stages of identifying areas for council cooperation and community involvement. Areas of interest at present include exchanges of information, skills and expertise among council employees, educational links—between schools and colleges and particularly the possibility of internships, citizenship with regard to young people, and aspects of economic development and regeneration. Lewisham recently hosted a successful study tour from councillors and officers of Ekurhuleni who were focusing on the use of new technology for the provision of front-line services.

6.5  Oxfordshire—Nkonkobe

  This established educational and arts-based partnership is currently expanding into economic development through a tourism and leisure programme.

6.6  Torfaen—Cape Town

  A good practice partnership was developed in 2000 to assist Cape Town's Oostenburg section to develop a social exclusion strategy and action plan. A key objective was to develop the management capacity of key staff. The strategy was formally adopted in 2002 and has contributed to the wider agenda being developed across the city. The two partners seek to maintain their relationship through the ongoing exchange of best practice.

6.7  East Grinstead—Dundee

  This twinning link is based around school partnerships between the two towns. Significant activities include staff exchanges and discussions of best practice in education.

6.8  Hackney—Alexandra

  An informal link administered by Hackney's International Association, this partnership focuses on educational exchanges between schools in the two inner city areas.

6.9  London—Johannesburg

  The Greater London Authority has established a "sister city" relationship with Johannesburg.

BUILDING THE CAPACITY OF ELECTED MEMBERS: LAACTSA

  The NGO Local Authority Action for Southern Africa is a forum for over 60 councils in the UK with an interest in South Africa. Founded upon Local Authorities Against Apartheid, LAACTSA was established in 1995 to promote democracy and development throughout southern Africa by working with local communities and their local authorities. In South Africa, activities centre around training placements and capacity building programmes for councillors.

  Now hosted by Croydon Council, LAACTSA is promoting a scheme for the development of business entrepreneurship in partnership with local government. This initiative sets out to support local women councillors in rural South Africa, and women entrepreneurs in setting up small businesses, through mentoring and training progammes.

BUILDING THE CAPACITY OF OFFICERS AND OFFICIALS: SOLACE AND I&DEA

  The UK's Improvement and Development Agency (I&DeA) has been central in assisting SALGA in the development of their initial three year business plan and strategic review, funded by DfID. I&DeA maintains support for local and provincial government in South Africa through initiatives such as a recent study tour for South African officials to the UK on the theme of local government modernisation.

  The Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE) has developed an advisory relationship with its South African counterpart, the Institute for Local Government Management. The current focus of this relationship is support for the establishment of a commercial wing of ILGM, which will be a company built along the lines of SOLACE Enterprises in the UK. An exchange programme for senior local government officials is also under discussion.

A COMMONWEALTH PERSPECTIVE: CLGF

  The Commonwealth Local Government Forum, based in the UK, seeks to build the capacity of local government in Commonwealth countries with an emphasis on the exchange of best practice between international partners. CLGF's current approach in South Africa takes the shape of the Good Practice Scheme, a DfID programme of support for strengthening local government.

  The Scheme aims to build the capacity of local authorities in South Africa in devising and implementing plans for local economic development in relation to South Africa's mandatory Integrated Development Plans. Nine international partnerships between South African municipalities and Commonwealth counterparts are designed to share good practice and develop appropriate solutions. Overarching these projects is a programme for developing SALGA's capacity to exploit such international resources for the development of local government in the country. This programme is involving the LGIB in supporting SALGA in tracking and promoting international input into local government and directing this for strategic impact (see paragraph 4 above).

FUNDING

  As of 2003 there is a designated fund for the development of local government partnerships between South Africa and the Commonwealth in the field of economic development, in the shape of the DfID-funded CLGF Good Practice Scheme, to which South African local authorities can apply, requesting partnership with the UK where appropriate. This scheme will fund nine partnerships, some of which will be with UK partners.

  Individual schemes have also been supported by DfID, the British Council and Westminster Foundation for Democracy. While local authorities are legally authorised to use domestic resources overseas, in practice they favour external funds or community fund-raising for smaller scale projects.

FUTURE STRATEGY

  As the body constitutionally responsible for the development of local government in South Africa, SALGA aims to ensure that the resources to which it has access are directed towards its own strategic objectives. These resources increasingly include local government expertise, experience and commitment from practitioners worldwide. The LGIB will therefore continue to work with SALGA to build capacity for an increasingly strategic approach to international input into local government in South Africa, in order that individual projects and partnerships might reap the most effective benefit for the country's development.

  In the domestic context, the LGIB and its sister local government organisations will work together to encourage the coordinated and strategic input of UK local authorities in accordance with SALGA's plans for local development in South Africa.

Local Government International Bureau

September 2003





 
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