Proposed protections for councils facing large EU fines have been given the stamp of approval by ministers.
An independent advisory panel first proposed by the LGA has been incorporated into the final regulations for a controversial section of the Localism Act which makes councils liable for fines for breaches of EU regulations.
LGA chair Sir Merrick Cockell (Con) said: “It is positive that many of the concerns council leaders raised with the government over EU fines have been taken on board.
“Any attempts to pass on an EU fine to councils will now have to withstand both scrutiny from both Parliament and an independent fines advisory panel. This is something which town halls pressed for and is a positive step.”
Back in February the government unveiled a consultation on a set of measures intended to reassure local government it would not be arbitrarily landed with a bill for a large fine.
Sir Merrick said: “Fears had existed that councils would be instantly hit in the pocket as a result of failure of duty by contracted-out firms – but assurances have now been provided that if councils act reasonably this will be considered a factor by the fines advisory panel.
“It is vital that the public purse isn’t hit by the actions of external organisations and this statement commits the government to ensuring that doesn’t arise.”
Local government responses to the consultation raised concerns about liability of a third party, such as a contactor or supplier, and the government has made it clear such arrangements would be part of the panel’s considerations.
Sir Merrick added: “The LGA has been clear that EU fines are to be avoided at all costs – and councils are committed to working with the government and other partners to ensure that such situations don’t occur.
In future, town halls look forward to working closely with the government ahead of any EU discussions to discuss any implications for local government.”