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JOINT COMMITTEE ECHOES LGA CALL FOR URGENT REVIEW OF FUNDING PROVISION FOR CIVIL CONTINGENCIES BILL

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`The Local Government Association is delighted that the report* of the Joint ...
`The Local Government Association is delighted that the report* of the Joint

Committee on the draft Civil Contingencies Bill has acknowledged so many of

our concerns, particularly with regard to the funding for this new

legislation', Ann Stribley, chair of the LGA's Public Protection

Executive, said today.

The LGA submitted both written and oral evidence to the committee in which it stated

that local authorities were already severely under-funded and challenged

central government's stated view that the new duties in the Bill will impose

only negligible costs on councils.

Ms Stribley continued:

`The LGA has carried out research to determine the actual costs of providing

the emergency planning service at present and we are extremely pleased to

see that these figures have been accepted by the committee as 'a reasonable

initial indication' of the current costs.

`In the committee's view, the government's consultation was seriously

hampered by the absence of draft regulations which will set out the detail

of the new duties, thus making it impossible for local authorities to

estimate the costs of their new responsibilities. The LGA's evidence called

for a wholesale review of funding for emergency planning, giving the likely

scale of the proposed new duties, especially since shire districts are to be

included as Category 1 responders. We are very glad therefore that the joint

committee has also called on the government to carry out an urgent

comprehensive review of the funding provision as soon as the detail of the

regulations is known.'

The civil defence grant is currently just over £19m but the LGA's research

shows that the total cost of providing an emergency planning service for

local authorities is around £36m. Therefore, councils are currently having

to contribute an additional £17m themselves.

In 1991 the civil defence grant stood at £24.5m but severe year-on-year cuts

reduc ed it to just £14m. After the threat of a judicial review in 2000,

central government increased the grant by £5m to bring it up to £19m. Today

it stands at a fraction over £19m, having had a small increase for inflation

for the year 2003-4. If the grant had stayed at its 1991 level, allowing for

inflation increases, it would have reached around £36m by now. Therefore,

the LGA continues to argue that funding from central government is now 50%

lower in real terms than it was back in 1991, with local authorities having

to make up the shortfall by drawing funds away from other services.

Ms Stribley added:

`We are aware of reports that the government has asserted that local

authorities have seen the civil defence grant rise by more than a third over

the last two years to £19m for 2002-3. This is somewhat disingenuous when

you consider that there is a funding shortfall of £17m.'

* The joint committee's report is available here.

NOTES

1 The LGA's written evidence to the joint committee and its research

briefings on the cost of providing the emergency planning service can be

downloaded from http://www.lga.gov.uk

2 At present, only top tier local authorities (counties, unitaries,

metropolitan boroughs and London boroughs) receive funding via the civil

defence grant. Shire districts receive no such funding.

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