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Letters

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Planning conflict

I am sure I’m not alone in raising concern about the clear conflict which has been created by new London mayor Boris Johnson’s appointment of Westminster City Council leader Sir Simon Milton (Con) as his senior planning adviser (‘Milton made Boris adviser’, LGC, 8 May).

Sir Simon will be retaining his seat on the council, where his civil partner Robert Davis (Con) is both cabinet member for planning and the West End and a chairman of the planning applications committee.

In the interests of total transparency and open government in line with Mr Johnson’s election pledges the Greater London Authority should draft protocols to prevent Sir Simon from involvement in Westminster planning matters or applications.

And, while we are at it, how come Sir Simon is allowed to apparently breach the Widdecombe rules by taking up a senior and well-paid position with one local authority while he remains a member of another?

Mr Johnson’s first important appointment is turning out to be his first major gaffe.

Paul Dimoldenberg

Labour group leader, Westminster City Council

Right to appeal

The judgment handed down in respect of Risk Management Partners v Brent LBC declared that Brent had no powers under s111 of the Local Government Act 1972 to participate in an insurance mutual (Letters, LGC, 1 May). It also said Brent had not established that its participation in the London Authorities’ Mutual Limited (LAML) was made in the exercise of the power conferred by s2 of the Local Government Act 2000.

The judgment was solely in respect of the particulars of Brent’s participation in LAML and not on the generality of authorities’ powers to participate.

On the generalities the judge said that it did not follow from his ruling that there were no powers to participate in LAML.

A local authority can purchase risk management services and it can enter into a contract with a mutual insurance company.

LAML has never just been about the provision of cheap insurance premiums.

To quote from its website, the principal benefits of participation in LAML are reductions of 15% on expiring rates, the opportunity to participate directly in any underwriting surplus made by the mutual, greater pricing stability, wider coverage, control, the incentivising of effective risk management, pan member risk management initiatives and the reduction of frictional costs associated with procuring insurance services.

The purpose behind reserving the right to appeal is to support one of our members, Brent LBC, and to seek further clarity on the application of the wellbeing powers which is so fundamental to many initiatives currently in train in the public sector. LAML would be failing in its public duty if it allowed this opportunity to pass unchallenged.

Martin Fone

On behalf of LALM

Forward-thinking

I was disappointed to see that colleagues gave a muted response to the concept of a public sector worker suggested by Jan Parkinson, managing director of the Local Government Employers’, at the Public Sector People Managers’ Association Conference in April (‘Dismay over pay alignment’, LGC 8 May).

Our organisations are now becoming more reliant on partnerships with other public sector organisations in delivering services to our customers.

The boundaries between our organisations have becoming blurred. Multi-disciplinary teams of public sector workers from a range of organisations are now commonplace. This leads to issues on relative pay and benefit rates, not to mention the complexities of relative employer liabilities when teams merge.

What sense is there is continuing our old-fashioned pay machinery, which does not deliver the type of employment frameworks we need in a modern public sector environment? My vote is with Jan and I congratulate her for taking such a forward-thinking approach.

Gillian Hibberd

Corporate director (people and policy) Buckinghamshire CC

Defending parishes

The spokeswoman for the Department for Communities & Local Government on capping must be out of step with the secretary of state (‘Towns and parishes warned of capping,’ LGC, 8 May).

The ‘power of wellbeing’ will come into force for first-tier councils from 1 July, giving eligible councils more freedom to spend money without a specific power. Why would government extend this power if not wanting to create more opportunity for appropriate spending at community level on local priorities?

Incidentally, much of the increase over the last 10 years has been spent on picking up services and facilities from principal authorities, contributing to schemes such as for police community support officers where government has failed to fund them properly.

Your report failed to give balance. Even sadder is that the National Association of Local Councils failed to provide a robust response.

Parish and town councils should not be apologising for maintaining and improving local quality of life.

Less central and local government, more community governance please.

Steven Lugg

Director, Hampshire Association of Local Councils

Improve allowance

The Local Government Information Unit has long advocated a national scheme of standards of remuneration for councillors (‘Councillors Commission proposals opposed by LGA’, LGC, 8 May). This should be set by government or an independent panel, taking account of different roles and variations between types of authority.

If we want a wide range of people to stand for election the basic allowance should pay a reasonable rate that recognises the loss of potential earning that many individuals sacrifice.

Elected members should also to be able to continue to receive their allowances in case of sickness, maternity and paternity leave in the same way that employees enjoy such entitlements. As a compulsory element of any package, councillors’ allowances should be eligible for pensionability.

So, although we would go further, we welcome the support of the Local Government Association for a national framework on allowances and agree with the support for businesses to encourage their employees to serve as councillors.

Maureen Alderson

Head of Centre for Local Democracy, Local Government Information Unit

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