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GOVERNMENT RESPONDS TO REPORT ON THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACT 2000

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The government has published its response to the transport, local...
The government has published its response to the transport, local

government and regional affairs select committee's report on How the

Local Government Act 2000 is Working.

The Local Government Act 2000 aimed to create new ways of working for

authorities so that decision-making becomes more efficient,

transparent and accountable. It also set up a new ethical framework

and gave councils new powers to promote or improve economic, social

and environmental well-being of their areas.

Local government minister Nick Raynsford said:

'We are pleased that the select committee has examined how the Local

Government Act 2000 is working and its conclusions will be useful as

we take this policy forward.

'We do not believe, as the committee suggests, that sufficient

experience of the new arrangements has been gained for there to be

any sound basis for change or repeal of a significant part of the

current regulations and guidance or to warrant the disruption that

would cause.

'Although all councils have now adopted new council constitutions,

about 40% of councils have done so only during the six months prior

to publication of the select committee's report. We therefore feel

that the best response to the issues raised is to continue to support

councils in implementing the changes that they have only recently

adopted.'

The report also highlighted the committee's concerns that local

authorities are now subject to too much scrutiny by too many external

organisations. It called on the government to ensure that inspections

are consolidated and reduced before June 2003.

Mr Raynsford continued:

'We agree that inspections of local authorities needs to be better

co-ordinated and more focussed. They need to add greater value and

take into account local authorities' own priorities and planning

requirements. The comprehensive performance assessment will be key to

the achievement of a proportionate and co-ordinated inspection

programme.

'Inspectorates are working together to develop a programme of overall

inspection for councils from April 2003 which will significantly

reduce the volume of inspection and make it more efficient. In

addition, we have recently announced that there will be a significant

reduction in the amount of inspection undertaken with a three-year

inspection holiday being offered to 'excellent' authorities, and at

least a 25% reduction in inspections for 'good' authorities.

'These changes build on the freedoms and flexibilities that will be

taken forward in the Local Government Bill with respect to giving

councils freedom to borrow to pay for major projects, giving councils

more powers to charge for discretionary services, and more powers to

enter into trading agreements.'

Following the views of the select committee and responses from a

consultation on pensions, the government has decided to give local

authorities powers to include councillors in the Local Government

Pension Scheme. The government will therefore amend the scheme to

open it up to those councillors whose authorities, acting on the

views of their independent remuneration panels, decide should be

eligible for membership. Interested parties will now be consulted on

the draft regulations with a view to these coming into force next

April.

However the government disagreed with the committee that there should

be a national scheme for councillors' allowances.

Mr Raynsford said:

'We believe in giving local authorities the flexibility to make their

own decisions, taking into account local needs and the views of their

independent remuneration panel. Similarly it is right that local

people are able to form a view on how their own councillors are

recompensed based on their knowledge of the local economy, and hold

them to account. To introduce a national scheme would be contrary to

our policy.'

Mr Raynsford announced that the government plans to simplify the

framework for allowances for travel and subsistence and for parish

councils - bringing them in line with the current allowance system.

This decision comes in the light of a consultation exercise last year

which included local government pensions.

Notes

1. The government's response to the select committee report is available here.

2. The transport, local government and regional affairs select

committee published their Report on How the Local Government Act 2000

is Working on 12 September 2002.

3. The Local Government Act 2000 is a central part of the

government's commitment to modernising local government. It aims to

create new ways of working for authorities so that decision making

becomes more efficient, transparent and accountable, new standards of

behaviour apply, and that councils have new powers to promote or

improve economic, social and environmental well-being of their areas.

4. Local authorities currently set their own levels of allowances for

councillors having regard to the recommendations of their independent

remuneration panels. The exception to this are travel and subsistence

allowances which are within limits set by the secretary of state. To

address this anomaly the government went out to consultation in

September 2001 on travel, subsistence and certain other allowances

for local authorities. At the same time the government consulted on

pensions.

5. Copies of the respective consultation papers are available on the

ODPM website:

- Travel, subsistence and certain other allowances for members of

local authorities and other bodies in England -

http://www.local-regions.odpm.gov.uk/consult/travelsub/index.htm

- Pensions for elected member of local authorities in England -

http://www.local-regions.odpm.gov.uk/consult/pensions/index.htm

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