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GOVERNMENT ACTS TO CUT RED TAPE IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT

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Proposals to help local authorities speed up the removal of abandoned vehicles, deal more effectively with school e...
Proposals to help local authorities speed up the removal of abandoned vehicles, deal more effectively with school exclusions and simplify the benefits system for disabled children are among 42 measures to help reduce local government bureaucracy announced today by the government.

The Local Government White Paper 'Strong Local Leadership - Quality Public Services' sets out an agenda to give local authorities the tools they need to improve public services. This includes removing unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy. Today's report 'Making A Difference: Reducing red tape and bureaucracy in local government takes this agenda forward.

Prepared jointly by the Cabinet Office Regulatory Impact Unit (RIU), the DTLR and the Local Government Association (LGA), the report describes measures for reducing unnecessary bureaucracy and regulation in six key areas - statutory planning, transport, children's services, land-use planning, legal issues and funding regimes.

Nick Raynsford, local government minister, launched the report at a conference in Bristol on the Local Government White Paper. He said:

'Together, the package of 42 measures will remove unnecessary burdens; provide new freedoms and flexibilities; and remove unnecessary delay to service delivery. It demonstrates what can be achieved when central and local government work together effectively and in the spirit of the central local partnership and demonstrates progress in delivery on commitments set out in the local government White Paper we published in December 2001.'

In welcoming today's publication Lord Macdonald, minister for the cabinet office, said:

'The Regulatory Impact Unit 'Making a Difference' report will free up front line staff from paperwork and unnecessary bureaucratic processes, giving them more time to deliver quality public services. This is the fourth report the RIU's public sector team has completed in collaboration with other government departments'.

Jeremy Beecham, chairman of the LGA said:

'Deregulation is imperative to freeing up local government's capacity to innovate and deliver further improvements on the ground. The report launched today not only demonstrates a positive step by the government to reduce the burden of bureaucracy on local councils, but also its trust in them to make more decisions in the light of local circumstances.'

The measures were selected during six joint forums held during 2000 and 2001, involving around 120 representatives from over 70 local authorities. The purpose of the meetings was to identify measures that could be introduced to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy in local government. This consultation process resulted in 61 suggestions for action. The RIU's Public Sector Team considered each suggestion and the DTLR and other departments helped determine the changes and improvements that could be made. The report describes how 42 of these 61 suggestions have been addressed, representing the removal of significant levels of unnecessary bureaucracy.

The measures contained in the report are expected to be fully implemented by the end of 2003.

Notes

Copies of the Making a Difference Report on Local Government are available from Leslie Mayne on 020 7276 2170 or can be downloaded from the RIU Public Sector Team website.

The RIU's public sector team was established in November 1999 in the response to the government's concern about the increase bureaucratic burdens on the public sector.

Located within the Cabinet Office's Regulatory Impact Unit the team's remit is to:

Identify the major bureaucratic regulatory burdens on public sector;

Distinguish those burdens imposed on central government and those imposed for other reasons eg an organisation's own internal management systems; and

Identify and agree measures with stakeholders on how these burdens can be sensibly reduced as swiftly as possible.

The team consists of secondees from private and public sectors as well as permanent civil servants, with various backgrounds, common knowledge and experience. The team is able to draw upon comparisons and approaches from a variety of other fields. This allows the lessons learned and best practices identified in one field to be disseminated across to other parts of the public sector.

Annex A

Measures aimed at reducing the burden on local government include:

Statutory planning

Initiatives across government to streamline and rationalise the 66 plans currently required by central government from local authorities. The Government is committed to reducing the number of plans and strategies it requires councils to produce by around one-third, with a target for an ultimate reduction of at least 50%. One County Council is looking to reduce the number of plans to three. It is estimated that a typical plan for children's services can take each authority as much as 100 days of staff time to produce.

Reduction in local authority workload created by external monitoring, inspection and reporting requirements. The Best Value process is being refined to reduce the number of inspections, Audit Commission inspections are being streamlined and better co-ordinated, and HM Treasury have reported on options for reducing the burden of external reviews.

Transport

Reduction in the burden of central government transport planning, funding, monitoring and reporting requirements. This includes streamlining bidding and funding regimes for transport projects, as well as local transport plans; reductions in the amount of reporting back to central government through Best Value performance indicators; and a review of the existing, and currently time-consuming, approvals scheme for new transport schemes.

Reduced notice periods for removal of abandoned vehicles. This will reduce the number of vehicles reported as abandoned on more than one occasion, reducing the duplication of work for local authority staff. About 350,000 vehicles are abandoned each year.

Reducing the need for special approvals. Updated Traffic Signs Regulations and revised guidance will reduce the amount of time spent by local authorities seeking approval for new traffic signs.

Children's services

Proposals to deal more effectively with school exclusions. New targets for the re-integration of excluded children into full-time education will reduce the social problems created by long-term exclusions, in turn reducing the burden on social service staff.

Simplification and modernisation of the benefits system for looked-after and disabled children. Looked-after and disabled children, together with their families, will benefit significantly from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) initiatives to simplify and modernise the benefits system.

Work within a pilot local authority (Camden LBC) to explore ways of more effectively linking up information on children across different services. The introduction of child identification across agencies would be a major step forward in the streamlining and improvement of local government's assessment, strategic planning and decision-making processes.

Land-use planning

A range of proposals to streamline and reform the land-use planning system, to make it simpler, faster and more customer focused as well as to allow more effective engagement of the community. These proposals include:

Changing the existing structure of development plans and adoption of a 'Local Development Framework'. This will make the system less complex and allow all stakeholders to engage more easily and effectively.

Simpler and faster enforcement procedures and a reduction in the number of Best Value reporting requirements. These measures will reduce further the workload of local authority staff.

A quicker appeals process and improvements to the speed of Planning Inspectorate decision-making. These improvements will eliminate lengthy delays and mean less uncertainty for applicants.

Law reform

Significant time savings through a reduction in the number of consent regimes. Work continues across government to progress the repeal of consent regimes, many of which are little more than rubber-stamping exercises.

Further consultation and consideration on how data sharing can be used to ensure a more efficient use of public services.

Greater flexibility to trade, set-up and run companies and set up partnership bodies with outside organisations. These changes will save time for legal officers, as well as enable local authorities to determine the best and most effective means of delivering services.

Introduction of a general power to charge. This will allow local authorities to offer a wider range of services than would otherwise be possible.

Funding regimes

Standardising operations and removal of duplication of effort. The Cabinet Office's Regional Co-ordination Unit has carried out a review of existing Area Based Initiatives (ABIs). This will develop proposals for sharedsystems for evaluation, consultation, planning and data collection and seek to ensure ABIs are delivered through main funding programmes where possible.

Rationalisation and standardisation of funding applications. Development of proposals to reduce complexity of applications for regeneration funding, Family Support Work and active community unit small grants.

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