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LOCAL GOVERNMENT BILL GETS SECOND READING

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Hansard 12 Jan: Col 124 ...
Hansard 12 Jan: Col 124

The Local Government Bill has received its Second Reading by 334 votes to 170.

Local government minister Hilary Armstrong said it was 'a bread-and-butter ' Bill, the first step towards the government white paper agenda of the wider modernisation of local government. But

opposition MPs - and some Labour members - criticised the many new powers reserved for the secretary of state and the current lack of transparency about capping procedures.

The minister said best value was based on four Cs: challenge whether a particular service is necessary or desirable; consultation with local people about the standards that they expect; comparison with the

quality and cost achieved by other similar service providers; and competition, real and fair, to achieve the maximum value for money.

Ms Armstrong added: 'The Bill seeks to define more closely the role of government, away from centralisation to regulation. The Bill will shift power out of Whitehall to the town hall, but will make

sure that individual citizens are protected as consumers and taxpayers. For too long, public service provision has been an ideological battleground between public and private sectors'.

But Patrick Jenkin, Conservative MP for North Essex, said with 27 new powers specified in the Bill for the secretary of state, it had a great deal to do with central control, including the continuation of

capping.

He said clause 14, on the use of secondary legislative powers to amend primary legislation, suggested the government did not know what changes need to be made but would think of them later.

The Bill is the first to devolve powers to the Welsh national assembly whiuch allows the secretary of state or the asembly to specify locally determined targets and performance indicators, allowing them to

deliver policies that were in line with needs of local communities.

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