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BYERS WINS FAVOUR WITH LGA SPEECH

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By political correspondent Varya Shaw ...
By political correspondent Varya Shaw
Local government secretary Stephen Byers has promised to slash the bureaucracy and red tape weighing down local government.
Speaking at the Local Government Association conference in Harrogate, he confirmed there would be a local government white paper this autumn providing 'a map of how to achieve our shared vision'.
He listed six areas for deregulation:
? Funding: 'It cannot be sensible for front-line staff to be faced with dozens of funding regimes within the same area.'
? Plans: 'What justification can there be for councils to have to produce some 70 separate plans?'
? Best value: 'Experience is showing it is overly bureaucratic.'
? Red tape: 'I intend to make rapid progress in lifting any unnecessary restrictions.'
? Consent regimes: 'We need to cut back on areas where councils can't act without a minister's approval.'
? Inspections: 'Local authorities are suffering from inspection overload.'
The development of a risk-based inspection regime would be speeded up, he said. However this would 'require reciprocal action from councils. They need to fully engage with performance improvement'.
Financial reforms included the prudential framework for capital borrowing. But Mr Byers dropped the abolition of the council tax benefit subsidy limitation scheme, which was in an earlier draft of his speech.
He called for a 'practical partnership' with local government and welcomed the LGA's six pledges as a move towards this.
But he added: 'If necessary, we will use the powers we have to ensure communities get the quality services they need.'
LGA chair Sir Jeremy Beecham said: 'The secretary of state used his speech to underline that ministers are listening. The white paper is a vital opportunity to deliver the freedoms councils need.'
Local Government Information Unit director Dennis Reed said: 'Local government has been waiting for the opportunity to say to central government, if you trust us we will deliver, and I think that was what was coming from Stephen Byers.'
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