Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Fourteenth Report


(a)The Government should recognise that if there are problems with the legislation, it is likely that they would identified most quickly by councillors who are operating under the new arrangements (paragraph 8).
(b)The Government and Local Government Association should emphasise their expectation that councils will use the well-being power and give simple, practical advice as to how and take steps to monitor its use (paragraph 10).
(c)The evidence we have received is that local government is so distracted that it is not using the well-being power, and that as a as result the transformation of previously inward looking local authorities into outward looking, responsive councils is unlikely to take place (paragraph 11).
(d)We recommend that the volume of regulations and guidance which accompanies the 2000 Act should be dramatically reduced (paragraph 12).
(e)The Government should give local authorities the freedom to develop constitutions that respond to local needs and should consider both amendments to regulations and guidance and primary legislation (paragraph 15).
(f)The Government should give further thought as to how Local Strategic Partnerships fit with the executive structure of local authorities (paragraph 16).
(g)If Local Strategic Partnerships are to become a way in which people can take decisions without standing for election, this would undermine the role of democratically elected councillors and create further concerns about how LSPs can be held accountable (paragraph 17).
(h)Government policy on issues of interest and personal conduct should be consistent across the public sector, for example across local councils and Local Strategic Partnerships (paragraph 18).
(i)Councils should give emphasis to high quality pre, rather than post, decision scrutiny of controversial matters (paragraph 21).
(j)Each council should be able to define the characteristics of what is a controversial, i.e. key decision, based on the specific needs of its local area. It is not practical for central government to specify the tests for a key decision (paragraph 24).
(k)We are very concerned by reports of lower levels of public awareness and reduced local media interest in the new structures, especially as increasing accountability and transparency was one of the main objectives of the Act (paragraph 25).
(l)We recommend that full council should be given the power to call-in, delay and if needs be, reject controversial executive decisions (paragraph 27).
(m)This loss of information and contact with officers makes it much harder for councillors to intervene on their constituents behalf and to undertake their 'community leadership' role. All councillors should have equal rights to information from officers (paragraph 29).
(n)Until the public can see more clearly how overview and scrutiny has made a significant difference, it cannot be considered to be successful (paragraph 33).
(o)The Local Government Association should sponsor a clear, practical guide for all councillors setting out the powers available to overview and scrutiny committees, in particular the power to instigate council debates and request responses from the executive (paragraph 34).
(p)We recommend that the Government's review of bodies providing support for 'capacity building' should also make recommendations for the establishment of a national voice to represent overview and scrutiny and ensure that good practice is disseminated through emerging regional networks (paragraph 35).
(q)We recommend that all councils should ensure that a proportion of their overview and scrutiny committees are chaired by an opposition member (paragraph 37).
(r)Councils have not yet done enough to ensure the independence of officers advising overview and scrutiny committees. We recommend that councils should develop robust arrangements to protect the independence of those officers and should explore introducing separate reporting structures for them (paragraph 38).
(s)The Government should take account of the additional internal and external costs of operating overview and scrutiny arrangements in the new revenue funding arrangements for local government (paragraph 39).
(t)We are concerned that local authorities are now subject to too much scrutiny by too many external organisations and call on the Government to ensure that inspection has been consolidated and reduced well in advance of June 2003 (paragraph 40).
(u)The Act has not met its objective of freeing up councillors to spend less time in meetings and more time with their constituents. The Government should give councils the flexibility to modify current arrangements to allow greater diversity and experience amongst those who become councillors (paragraph 43).
(v)Area committees with appropriately delegated functions are clearly one way of empowering 'frontline councillors' (paragraph 44).
(w)We are concerned that higher allowances for executive councillors increase the powers of patronage of council leaders (paragraph 45).
(x)We recommend that the Government investigates the possibility of a national scheme for councillors' allowances (paragraph 45).
(y)We recommend that local authorities should be given discretion over the payment of pensions to all councillors (paragraph 45).
(z)We have recommended that all councils should be given the freedom to develop constitutions that respond to local needs. The alternative arrangements adopted in Brighton and Hove should be made available to all councils (paragraph 49).
(aa)Turnout in consultations so far suggests that local people are less interested in a council's internal management arrangements than the quality of its services. The Government's objectives of increasing local interest in and the accountability of local government has not yet been met by the introduction of new political management structures (paragraph 50).

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