Ministers will be prevented from arbitrarily passing EU fines onto councils under key concessions to the Localism Bill, according to the Local Government Association.
In its original form the Localism Bill allowed ministers to force councils to pay fines levied by the EU against the UK government for missing national targets on issues like improving air quality.
Ministers have now made key concessions including the introduction of a statutory policy which will describe the conditions under which national fines can be re-allocated to local authorities (see box below).
LGA chairman Sir Merrick Cockell (Con), said: “This is a fantastic result for local government and council tax payers. The previous system was unfair and unconstitutional and could have seen the government arbitrarily pass its fines onto councils.
“The amendments for which we successfully lobbied mean any decision to reallocate fines will be subjected to parliamentary scrutiny, with further systems of checks and balances introduced which make the proposals demonstrably fairer. We will continue to fight to ensure councils are not lumped with fines they do not deserve.”
The LGA has long warned the move was “unfair, unconstitutional and dangerous” as it offered no independent appeal and arbitration process in case of any dispute.
Key amendments include:
- Proposals to pass fines to local authorities will be subject to votes in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
- Ministers cannot pass on fines to local authorities in respect of anything that took place before that specific Parliamentary vote.
- If a council contests the fine, the issue will be ruled on by an independent panel that includes local government representatives nominated by the LGA.