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LGA CONFERENCE: SET COUNCILS FREE, ABOLISH PRESCOTT SAY LIB DEMS

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The ODPM is stifling local government and it is time the department was scrapped, ...
The ODPM is stifling local government and it is time the department was scrapped,

Liberal Democrat shadow ODPM secretary Edward Davey said in a speech to the Local Government Association conference yesterday.

'ODPM is not cost effective. Over £700m is spent every year on regulating councils, but only £100m on helping councils improve.

ODPM is inefficient. Decision making is slow and cumbersome. The longest delays in planning applications take place in Whitehall, not local government.

ODPM stifles innovation. Councils need to know they're free - so they can innovate. So they can be sure that their latest creativity won't be stifled by some new directive from Whitehall.

We believe you have to reform central government. You can't give real power away, if you're not taking it from someone else. So as we push power down and reform councils, it's also time for a major shake-up of Whitehall too.

And I'm prepared to start with the department of the deputy prime minister.

Why is there an Office of the Deputy Prime Minister? Why do we have central government intervening in so many decisions on planning, on housing and on regeneration?

Does Whitehall really have to interfere in the town hall so much, when there are plenty of auditors and inspectorates already to do that?

In a rational world - in a country where local government had more power and was not always cap-in-hand to central government, would we really need a Prescott? A department of state?

The ODPM only seems to add to costs.

Over £700m is spent every year on regulating councils, and it been increasing. Abolishing the ODPM is one sure fire way to turn that tide.

The ODPM only seems to add to delays.

Take planning. People complain about delays in planning, but it's the ODPM where the longest delays take place. Or take planning legislation. The current Planning and Complulsory Purchase Bill. Why, oh, why is the ODPM ripping up our local pla nning system? And then, taking years to do it! It seems the ODPM can't even do a good job, when it making a mess of things! Let's cut out this tier of government from so many decisions, for efficiency.

And if grounds of cost and efficiency aren't enough for you, what about freedom?

The best way to free councils is for Prescott to butt out. For a start, it would end the culture of people looking to Whitehall for solutions. Real freedom forces responsibility - challenging, perhaps. But far more satisfying.

Councils need to know they're free - so they can innovate. So they can be sure that their latest creativity won't be stifled by some new directive from on high.

It is time to abolish Prescott's department and set councils free.'

POOREST PENSIONERS FLEECED BY COUNCIL TAX TIME TO SCRAP THE UNFAIREST TAX

'The poorest pensioners in England are being fleeced by the council tax, shelling out 6.1% of their disposable income even after their benefits. The poorest non-pensioners are also hard hit paying out 4.6% of their disposable income. By contrast the richest non-pensioners pay only 1.8% of their disposable income.

In England, the poorest pensioners are paying proportionally over three times more in Council Tax than the richest.

Council tax is so unfair. No wonder people are screaming about council tax rises - they're painful, and are fleecing the poor and vulnerable!

Council tax targets the poorest pensioners hardest. No wonder we are seeing anti-council tax protest groups springing up round the country.

Council tax may have been a Tory tax, but Labour are making it much worse. Scrapping Council Tax is one of the Liberal Democrats top priorities.'

Commenting on the Commons Local Government & the Regions Select Committee report 'Reducing Regional Disparities in Prosperity' out today, Mr Davey said:

'The committee is right to expose the foot dragging and confusion in government over the regions. The prime minister's reluctance to back his Deputy on regional assemblies means the government have taken the slow train to effective regional policy.

'Ministers are putting too much emphasis on development in the South East at the expense of the regions, which risks making the problems worse.'

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