The modernisation of English local government has created new forms of executive leadership. These aim to deliver better management and greater public engagement. Drawing from a recent study of the views of elected councillors in a sample of contrasting councils, this paper considers how far the new political management has succeeded in enhancing public interest and involvement in local government. It is suggested that executive and non-executive councillors differ in their perceptions of the new arrangements and that public interest is still largely perceived as relating to issues of immediate and personal concern. Backbench councillors may feel relatively powerless in taking up issues. Stepping down from elected office could even provide greater opportunities to be involved in public and political affairs. Equally, there are many examples of positive initiatives to involve the public, including area-based organisation and the effective use of scrutiny. Elected mayors were more optimistic than councillors in their perception of public involvement, tending to see themselves as having a direct line to the public and serving to 'reconnect' council and public. Overall, however, public engagement remains the great unfinished business of local government modernisation.