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Pickles floats two-part settlement for councils

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Significant reform of the local government finance system will not be carried out until 2013/14, communities secretary Eric Pickles has said, as ministers contemplate handing councils a pair of two-year settlements to cover the next spending review period.

Mr Pickles told a Local Government Association conference he had not made a final decision but that reform of the system would be the focus of the second settlement, which would run from 2013/14- 2014/15, if the plans went ahead.

“In the second two-year settlement I will start the changes of the block grant,” he said, adding this would involve a move to a more inventive-based way of doing things. “We are hoping to get the reform of local government finance in and look again [at] neighbourhoods to be the recipients of that.”

LGA programme director for finance, Stephen Jones, said the three-year settlement had given councils a good degree of certainty.

He added: “There is some understanding that if ministers are to carry out significant local government finance reform, they have to approach it in stages as they appear to be suggesting.”

Mr Pickles also revealed support was growing for the LGA’s place based budgets offer within Whitehall and that the programme was set to be re-named “community budgets”.

He also confirmed that decentralisation and localism bill would hand elected mayors the power to combine their role with their chief executive’s and said the LGA should be subject to the same Freedom of Information Act rigour which applied to councils and Whitehall departments.

See this week’s LGC for more

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