Gordon Brown: Local newspapers are 'at the heart of Britain'

Local newspapers are right at the heart of Britain.

But local newspapers do not just hold the Government to account for the local impact of the changes we are making. They also play a vital a role in campaigning for the changes which local people want to see.

There are some real challenges ahead for Britain as a country, every one of which has an impact on local people – whether it is providing more affordable housing, improving our health service, making sure all our young people have the skills to get jobs in the future, making our streets safer for decent people, or protecting our environment.

I know these challenges are appreciated by local newspapers up and down the country, and reflected in their campaigns, from encouraging shoppers to use fewer plastic bags, to tackling gangs and knife crime.

I believe that we can only meet all these challenges if we do more to listen to local people across the country and give them more power to take decisions themselves on the way their local services are organised and funded.

Local newspapers are a critical part of this process, and I know that there is a huge opportunity for them to lead more campaigns on the issues which matter.

And I want readers of this newspaper to know that when you participate in these campaigns, we are listening to you.

That is why one of my first acts as Prime Minister was to appoint individual ministers for every region in Britain to ensure that the demands and concerns of local people are heard at the centre of Government.

Already we can see – from the new Regional Development Agencies bringing jobs and investment to each region, to greater local powers over housing, health, skills and transport – there is a real and growing devolution of power away from Whitehall and down to individual regions and communities.

And I want to do even more to move away from the old Britain weakened by decades of ‘Whitehall knows best’, towards a new Britain strengthened by local centres of energy, initiative, dynamism and decision-making.

Local newspapers make an essential contribution to the vitality of local communities, and as a result our whole national life is strengthened. You show us what really makes the difference in our country is communities coming together to change things for the better.

Local Newspaper Week, which is this year celebrating the campaigning power of local and regional newspapers, runs until 11 May.

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