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LYONS MOVES FOCUS BACK ON GOVERNANCE

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New consultation for final report...
New consultation for final report

Sir Michael Lyons' latest consultation document has put governance and funding issues back at the centre of his inquiry into the form and function of local government.

Sir Michael published the consultation on Monday after the Treasury announced his report would be delayed for the second time to consider the reports of Kate Barker, Sir Rod Eddington and Sir Sandy Leitch into planning, transport and skills respectively.

On the Eddington transport study, Sir Michael asks if local authorities can 'work effectively in partnership to deliver transport outcomes or are new/reformed institutions necessary?'

He also seeks views on 'how current funding arrangements best be reformed to support cost effective and appropriate spending and investment decisions at sub-national level'.

The document raises the prospect of new or reformed institutions being necessary 'to enable strategic [planning] decisions to be taken at an appropriate spatial level'.

It also asks councils how the empty property relief on business rates - where owners of unused commercial property receive a discount - should be reformed.

But the document does not ask any specific questions about the proposed planning gain supplement.

Tony Travers, director of the Greater London Group at the London School of Economics, said there was scope in both the Barker and Eddington reports to give local government greater powers and freedom to raise money.

'Given the nightmare of doing anything about the council tax or business rates, I think both the government and opposition might support road pricing [a key proposal of the Eddington study] as a new

revenue stream for councils,' Mr Travers said.

'Lyons is now even talking about the role of buses in promoting economic development - which is a long way from his original remit but a good thing.'

Rob Whiteman, chief executive of Barking & Dagenham LBC, said: 'I think the Barker review does have implications for Lyons. Councils will have roles in housing supply and in co-ordinating areas.'

However, Dermot Finch, director of the Centre for Cities group at the Institute for Public Policy Research, warned Lyons should steer clear of the debate about city region governance.

'That is something for the comprehensive spending review and the Treasury review of sub-national economic development and regeneration,' he said.

'I don't think he will be as specific as to say 'we should have a Transport for Greater Manchester' based on London.'

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