Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Fears of losses in accountability at local government level...

Following on from concerns about restrictions being imposed on the ability to campaign...
Futures Forum: Concerns for campaigning: Lobbying Bill to become law

... a post today from the blog of Independent Cllr Claire Wright highlights fears that "some of our rights will be eroded..."
"What will the government do next to try and immobilise our right to object to anything at all?"


Here is the piece from the Local Government Association website:

Unwinding red tape

6 March 2014

Health and safety, apprenticeships, housing and even knitting yarns are among the issues up for deregulation, under new legislation currently before Parliament.

The Government has publicised the Deregulation Bill as aiming to help free councils and business from unwanted and unnecessary red tape.

The Bill has now started making progress through Parliament and will spend most of its time in Committee stage during March, with MPs from all sides of the House poring over the line-by-line details.

The LGA has taken an interest in the Bill as it includes proposals such as reducing the qualifying period for people to buy their council property under ‘right to buy' from five to three years; reforming waste collection by abolishing the criminal penalty for putting the wrong items in the wrong bins to a civil penalty; and abolishing councils' duties to consult, allowing them to make their own consultation decisions for their communities.

The LGA welcomes the Government's approach to reducing legislative burdens on public sector bodies as it links closely into our Rewiring Public Services campaign, which is already advocating this approach.

The LGA has been actively working with MPs on the Bill, and holding meetings with government to ensure local government's perspective is understood. At these meetings we have also been suggesting further deregulatory measures as well.

On ‘right to buy', we are urging that the Government goes further and allows councils to set the discount on council house sales locally, and to retain the receipts. We are advocating the removal of the housing borrowing cap, which is a barrier to house building. If lifted, it would allow councils to build up to 60,000 new homes in the next five years.

We are also advocating that parliamentarians consider reforming the obsolete requirement to publish statutory notices in newspapers, which has existed since 1972 and which needs to play catch-up with the digital world that councils and the public now live in.

We believe these important deregulatory measures will be a further step to help councils and their communities reduce unnecessary burdens. We will work with MPs, from all political benches throughout the Commons' stages of the Bill, which are expected to take up until May. The Bill will then be ‘carried over' as part of the Queen's Speech, and enter the House of Lords for further scrutiny See www.local.gov.uk/parliament

News | Local Government Association

Earlier, the LGA voiced concern about the tendency of politicians to promise more 'decentralisation':

Achieving decentralisation

20 February 2014

Ed Miliband has promised that, if elected, Labour will usher in a new era of decentralisation in England and Wales. Local leaders will undoubtedly be sceptical. All parties promise localism in opposition but usually end up gripping tightly on the levers of state power.

Despite promises of decentralisation from David Cameron's government, council tax is still aggressively capped and Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has regularly issued edicts to councils on local issues such as bin collections.

In part, this is because the Coalition prefers giving power to individuals, not local authorities. But it is also because the current government's attempts to decentralise political power, through police and crime commissioners and the ‘city deals' process, have run into difficulty.

Last month, the Institute for Government published research examining why this is (see www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk). Not all decentralisation efforts are doomed – as seen by successful devolution to Scotland and Wales. But many flounder due to resistance from among the three main groups who need to support reforms: national government, local government and the public.

Opinion | Local Government Association

Meanwhile, there are questions about the effectiveness of the various 'Community Rights' and the promise of more 'transparency':

Make up your own mind on this one on take up of community “rights”!



... Community Right to Bid: Since this right was introduced in 2012, 900 communities had made use of it “to initiate dialogue and action around the places and spaces that mean most to them”. In 57 communities, the sale of the community asset in question had been put on hold for an initial six-month period. However, in just six cases had the community purchased the asset directly.”


… ”The Government said it was also seeking to improve transparency around dates for key local authority meetings, to enable people to be more involved in local decision making. It said that, to support this, it would soon be publishing a revised local transparency code.”

Not taking any bets that a “revised local transparency code” will change our lives for the better.

Make up your own mind on this one on take up of community “rights”! | Sidmouth Independent News
Local Government Lawyer - Government report insists take-up of community rights is strong

See also:
Assets of Community Value | Sidmouth Independent News
Local Government Association defends transparency | Sidmouth Independent News
Corruption in public life (2) | Sidmouth Independent News

Futures Forum: "Do you vote?"... or: How much voter engagement is there?
Futures Forum: Payments and patronage in East Devon
Futures Forum: District Council meets to consider issue of Lobbying ..... ..... but ..... "What is lobbying?"
Futures Forum: How to alienate your electorate and lose influence

No comments: