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The government is to publish an emergency planning white paper outlining statutory requirements for councils....
The government is to publish an emergency planning white paper outlining statutory requirements for councils.

It is hoped the consultation, expected early next year, will pave the way for a

civil contingencies bill which will update the existing legislation which dates back more than half a century.

The bill intends to clarify the roles and responsibilities of both central and local government following criticism from some council emergency planners that there is a lack of co-ordination between central and local government.

Hertfordshire CC's head of safety, emergency and risk management David Moses said: 'There is some unease in emergency planning about a lack of clarity and communication over what would happen in the event of an emergency.'

A conference, organised by the Local Authorities Radiation Network, was held this week to discuss the impact on councils of legislative changes in emergency planning.

Local Government Association disaster management consultant Paul Read said: 'Before the attacks of 11 September 2001 the Home Office sent out some guidance to local authorities about how a terrorist attack using chemical, biological radiological or nuclear weapons would be dealt with. That is now being reviewed and updated.'

The concern expressed by Mr Moses was echoed in a recent House of Commons select committee report, which said there had been a good deal of effort expended without clear strategic direction.

There has also been criticism from Conservative shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin, who said the government's plans for dealing with a major terrorist incident were 'amateurish and disorganised'.

A statement from the civil contingencies secretariat of the Cabinet Office said:

'A possible framework for local arrangements is emerging, based on identifying and categorising key local organisations with a clear leadership role.'

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