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BILL MERELY CATCHES UP PRACTICE, SAYS BEECHAM

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The draft local government Bill simply catches up on the many ways councils are already modernising, according to L...
The draft local government Bill simply catches up on the many ways councils are already modernising, according to Local Government Association chairman Sir Jeremy Beecham.

Sir Jeremy said: 'Local government is committed to transforming the way it works, with more than four-fifths of councils way ahead of these proposals.

'The government has set out to enshrine what we are already doing into legislation but has failed to include the return of the business rate to local authorities, which is vital for accountability.'

Professor Gerry Stoker, chair of Blairite think-tank the New Local Government Network, said: 'Strong leadership figures in major cities with popular mandates from hundreds and thousands of people will be a powerful counterweight to Westminster.'

Liberal Democrat local government spokesman Paul Burstow said: 'Without proper safeguards, these proposals are a recipe for local tinpot dictators. This Bill will institutionalise the control of town halls by domineering leaders.'

Conservative LGA group leader Lord Hanningfield said the Bill 'will confer new and excessive powers on the secretary of state'. But Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, Tory leader of Kent CC, said: 'We welcome any legislation that helps improve our accountability.' Philip Hendry, Tory leader of Bedfordshire CC, said: 'This serves to support all our hard work in preparing for new structures.'

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