Local Democracy, Economic Development And Construction Bill [HL] - continued          House of Commons

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113.     Clauses 47 - Fees; Clause 48 - Power of audit authority to require information; and Clause 49 - Subsidiaries of Passenger Transport Executives

114.     Clause 47 provides that a fee must be paid by the entity to the appointing audit authority when an auditor discharges any functions under clause 41 (Functions of auditor not appointed to conduct statutory audit) and clauses 42 to 46 (public interest reports). The audit authority must prescribe a scale of fees for the purposes of audits undertaken in clauses 42 to 46. This scale also determines the fees payable under the standard terms and conditions where the auditor is also appointed under Part 16 of the Companies Act (including that Part as applied to LLPs), or under the legislation applying to industrial and provident societies as provided for in clause 40. If the amount of work involved in a particular case differs substantially a different fee may be charged. Before prescribing a scale of fees, the audit authority must consult such associations of local authorities, or such bodies of accountants, as it considers appropriate. There is a reserve power for the Secretary of State or Welsh Ministers, by regulations and following consultation, to prescribe a scale of fees in place of any scale prescribed by the Commission or AGW respectively.

115.     Clause 48 sets out the power of the audit authority to request information relating to the accounts audited by the auditor and any other document or information relating to the entity, which would have been available to the auditor under the powers that he had. This is to enable the audit authority to see what the auditors they have appointed have done, and allows them access to the information needed to maintain proper standards.

116.     Clause 49 provides that a company which is a subsidiary of a Passenger Transport Executive is to be regarded as connected with the Integrated Transport Authority for the area for which the executive is established. This will allow for the relevant audit authority to appoint an auditor to a subsidiary of a Passenger Transport Executive and for that auditor to issue a public interest report where it is in the public interest to do so.

Clause 51 - Interpretation

117.     This clause contains interpretation provisions relating to this Chapter. Clause 48(2)(b) provides that an entity “connected with” a local authority has the meaning provided in subsection 212(6) of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007, namely that an entity is connected with a local authority if financial information about the entity must be included in the local authority’s statement of accounts. However, a local authority is not considered to be an entity itself in the 2007 Act.

PART 3: LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOUNDARY AND ELECTORAL CHANGE

Introduction

118.     The Electoral Commission was established under the provisions of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA) to oversee the workings of political parties in the UK. Presently the Electoral Commission has functions including reporting on elections and referendums; reviewing electoral law; providing guidance in relation to party political broadcasts; and promoting understanding of electoral and political matters. It also has specific functions relating to the registration of political parties, the scrutiny of the income and expenditure of political parties and third parties; the administration of referendums and the review and upkeep of electoral arrangements in local authorities in England.

119.     PPERA also includes provisions (sections 14-20) to establish Boundary Committees for each country in the UK within the Electoral Commission and to transfer to them the functions of the four Parliamentary Boundary Commissions for Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, together with those of the Local Government Commission for England and the Local Government Boundary Commissions for Scotland and Wales.

120.     To date, only responsibility for local authority administrative and electoral boundaries in England has been transferred to the Electoral Commission. On 1st April 2002 the functions of the Local Government Commission for England 6, an advisory Non Departmental Public Body (NDPB) of the then Department for Transport Local Government & the Regions, were transferred to the Electoral Commission to be carried out thereafter largely by the Boundary Committee for England. The Local Government Commission for England was then wound up.


121.     The Boundary Committee for England makes recommendations to the Electoral Commission for changes to the electoral arrangements of local authorities. It decides, with the agreement of the Electoral Commission, where and when it will carry out such reviews. The Electoral Commission is entirely responsible for the implementation of the recommendations by means of an order made by statutory instrument.

122.     The Boundary Committee for England also, if the Secretary of State requests such advice, provides advice on changes to the structure of local government and makes recommendations for changes to administrative boundaries. For both structure and boundary changes, only the Secretary of State can implement change by an order which must be approved by resolution of both Houses of Parliament.

123.     In February 2006 the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) decided to undertake a review of the Electoral Commission to ascertain whether its current mandate, governance arrangements and accountability framework remain appropriate. The purpose of the review was to provide an independent analysis of the role and responsibilities of the Electoral Commission and the Speaker’s Committee and to make recommendations with a view to addressing some of the perceived difficulties in the Electoral Commission’s role and the relevant legislation.

124.     The CSPL Eleventh Report Review of the Electoral Commission, published in January 2007, made 47 recommendations, two of which impact on the Boundary Committee and its work.

125.     The CSPL made their detailed recommendations in the context of its key finding — that the Electoral Commission has not successfully performed its core duties as a regulator to ensure integrity and public confidence in the electoral process and in the framework that governs the political party funding and campaign expenditure.

126.     The CSPL therefore recommended that the Electoral Commission should lose any other functions which may distract it from its core tasks. The two recommendations in relation to these provisions were:

      a)      Recommendation 17 — The Electoral Commission should no longer have any involvement in electoral boundary matters and the provision in the Political Parties Elections and Referendums Act to allow the transfer of boundary setting functions in England, Scotland and Wales to the Commission should be repealed.

      b)      Recommendation 18 — The Boundary Committee for England should become an independent body in line with local government boundary commissions in the rest of the United Kingdom.

127.     The Government has accepted many of the recommendation of the CSPL Report including those in relation to electoral boundary matters. The Government response, presented to Parliament in November 2007, said “we will put matters in hand to make the necessary practical and legal arrangements to remove the English local government boundary review work from the Electoral Commission”. This Bill seeks to put in place those legal arrangements.

128.     Part 3 in the first place establishes a new body, the Local Government Boundary Commission for England, and transfers to it the functions of the current Boundary Committee for England (subject to some modifications). In particular, clauses 53 to 56 largely re-enact the provisions in Part 2 of the Local Government Act 1992, which make provision for changes to local authority electoral arrangements in England. A number of modifications have been made to reflect the removal of the role of the Electoral Commission from this process. The Local Government Boundary Commission for England will be able to initiate reviews of its own accord and Orders made by the Committee will now be subject to a Parliamentary procedure providing a line of accountability to Parliament. Clause 57 transfers other functions from the Electoral Commission (see the note on clause 57).

129.     The clauses that relate to the establishment of the Local Government Boundary Commission for England apply only to England. Clause 58 applies to other parts of the United Kingdom (see the note on clause 58).

Clause 52 - Local Government Boundary Commission for England

130.     Clause 52 establishes the Local Government Boundary Commission for England as a separate corporate body. Schedule 1 contains the detailed provisions for the constitution and administration of the new body.

Clause 53 - Review of electoral arrangements

131.     Subsection (1) provides that the Local Government Boundary Commission for England must from time to time conduct a review of electoral arrangements of each principal council in England (the term “principal council” is defined in the clause). Subsection (2) provides that the Local Government Boundary Commission may, at any time, conduct a review of all, or any part, of the area of a principal council. Following a review under subsection (1) or (2), the new Commission may recommend whether a change should be made to electoral arrangements. The clause re-enacts, with changes, the provision previously made by sections 13(3), 13(4), 13(8) and 14(4) of the Local Government Act 1992.

Clause 54 - Requests for review of single-member electoral areas

132.     This clause provides a power for the Local Government Boundary Commission for England to conduct a review of the area of a principal council (as defined by clause 52), at that council’s request, with a view to making recommendations as to whether each electoral area in the area of the principal council should return only one member. It re-enacts, with changes, sections 14A and 14B of the Local Government Act 1992, which were inserted by the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007. The main difference from those provisions is that the role of the Electoral Commission has been removed.

Clause 55 - Review procedure

133.     This clause sets out the procedure which the Local Government Boundary Commission for England must follow when conducting electoral reviews under clause 53. It provides, in particular, for a process of preparing and publishing draft recommendations, and for a period of time for interested persons to make representations about those draft recommendations (subsection (2)). At the end of its review, the Local Government Boundary Commission for England must publish a report stating its recommendations (subsection 4(a)). It re-enacts section 15 of the Local Government Act 1992 with some amendments to remove the role of the Electoral Commission.

Clause 56 - Implementation of review recommendations

134.     This clause gives the Local Government Boundary Commission for England the power to make an order to give effect to all or any of the recommendations which it makes following a review of electoral arrangements for a local government area. It replaces section 17 of the Local Government Act 1992, removing the role of the Electoral Commission and making significant changes to the procedure for making an order to implement the Commission’s recommendations.

135.     Subsection (2) sets out the electoral changes that may be made by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England in an order. Subsection (3) provides that any electoral change may only be implemented at the next ordinary election for that council.

136.     Subsection (9) provides that any order made by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England must be laid in draft before both Houses of Parliament before it can be made. Such an order will be subject to the draft negative resolution procedure in accordance with section 6(1) of the Statutory Instruments Act 1946. The Local Government Boundary Commission will not be able to make any order until a period of 40 days, beginning with the day on which a copy of the draft order is laid in Parliament, has passed. If during that 40 day period either House of Parliament resolves that the order be not made the Local Government Boundary Commission would not be able to make the Order. Under the Local Government Act 1992, recommendations from the Local Government Boundary Commission for England’s electoral reviews were implemented by order by the Electoral Commission, and were not statutory instruments subject to Parliamentary procedure.

Clause 57 - Transfer of functions relating to local government boundaries

137.     This clause transfers various functions from the Electoral Commission and the Boundary Committee for England to the new Local Government Boundary Commission for England. These functions are: the existing Boundary Committee for England’s functions in providing advice to the Secretary of State on unitary local government (the replacement of a two tier system of county and district councils with a single tier of local government) and conducting boundary reviews under Part 1 of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007; the Electoral Commission’s function of considering whether an electoral review is necessary following a structural or boundary change order being made; the Electoral Commission’s functions for the review of constituencies of the Greater London Assembly under the Greater London Authority Act 1999, and its functions in relation to changes to local authorities’ electoral arrangements and parish reorganisation under Parts 2 and 4 of the 2007 Act.

Clause 58 - Removal of Electoral Commission boundary functions

138.     This clause abolishes the Electoral Commission’s duty to establish a Boundary Committee for England and repeals section 14, so far as it relates to England, and section 15 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. Those provisions provide for the establishment of the existing Boundary Committee for England as a statutory committee of the Electoral Commission, and the appointment by the Electoral Commission of Deputy Commissioners to be members of the Boundary Committee. Recommendation 18 of the Committee on Standards in Public Life’s Eleventh report stated that the Boundary Committee for England should become an independent body in line with local government boundary commissions in the rest of the United Kingdom.

139.     Recommendation 17 of the Committee on Standards in Public Life’s report also stated that the Electoral Commission should no longer have any involvement in electoral boundary matters, and that the provision in the Political Parties Elections and Referendums Act to allow the transfer of boundary functions in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to the Electoral Commission should be repealed.

140.     Therefore, clause 58 also repeals section 14, so far as it relates to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, sections 16, 17, 19 and 20 and the related provisions within the schedules to the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. Insofar as these sections relate to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales they have never been commenced. They are repealed to remove the Electoral Commission’s duty to establish Boundary Committees for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and the provisions for the transfer of the functions of the existing local government and parliamentary boundary commissions to these Boundary Committees.

Clause 59 - Transfer schemes

141.     This clause places the Electoral Commission under a duty to produce one or more schemes for the transfer of property, rights and liabilities from the Electoral Commission to the Local Government Boundary Commission for England. The Electoral Commission is required to consult with the Secretary of State on this scheme and seek the consent of the existing Boundary Committee for England before making the scheme. This clause requires the Electoral Commission to make such a scheme on or before 31 December 2009. If the Electoral Commission and existing Boundary Committee for England are unable to reach agreement on the provisions to be included in a scheme then the Secretary of State may by order specify such matters.

Clause 60 - Continuity of functions

142.     This clause provides that anything done by the existing Boundary Committee for England (which is part of the Electoral Commission) or by the Electoral Commission, in relation to structural or boundary changes or electoral arrangements, may be treated as having been done by the new Local Government Boundary Commission for England.

Clause 61 - Interim provision

143.     Schedule 3 makes modifications to the Local Government Act 1992 which will apply during an interim period starting on the day on which the Act is passed and ending on the establishment of the new Local Government Boundary Commission for England. Subsection (2) relates to recommendations made to the Electoral Commission by the Boundary Committee for England before this Bill is enacted. It places a duty on the Electoral Commission to exercise its powers under section 17 of the Local Government Act 1992 to decide whether or not to implement such recommendations on or before 31 March 2009, in order to ensure that recommendations made under the old system are dealt with swiftly.

Clause 62 - Electoral changes consequential on boundary change

144.     This clause makes amendments to sections 8, 10, 11 and 12 of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007. At present, where an order is made effecting a boundary change under Part 1 of the 2007 Act, the Electoral Commission must consider whether a review of local government electoral arrangements is required. Therefore, at present the Boundary Committee for England may have to conduct two separate reviews (one boundary review and one electoral review) for the same area sequentially. This clause amends the process set out in sections 8 and 10 for the review by the Boundary Committee for England of the boundaries of local government areas, to enable the new Local Government Boundary Commission for England to consider whether consequential changes (including changes to constituencies of the Greater London Assembly) should be made to electoral arrangements as part of the same review. This enables, but does not require, both boundary and electoral matters to be considered in a single review rather than two separate reviews. A similar provision was made in section 47(1)(i) of the Local Government Act 1972, which was repealed by the 1992 Act. Clause 62 also makes consequential changes to the powers to implement boundary changes in sections 11 and 12 of the 2007 Act.

Clause 63 - Repeal of redundant provisions

145.     This clause repeals provisions which relate to the now defunct Local Government Commission for England.

Clause 64 - Consequential and supplementary amendments

146.     This clause gives effect to Schedule 4, which contains amendments consequential on provision made in Part 3 of the Bill. It also gives the Secretary of State a power by order to amend, repeal or revoke enactments for the purposes of making further consequential provisions in relation to any provisions within Part 3.

Schedule 1 - The Local Government Boundary Commission for England

147.     This Schedule provides the detailed arrangements for the creation of a new Local Government Boundary Commission for England, separate from the Electoral Commission. The Schedule replicates many of the arrangements which apply to the Electoral Commission.

148.     It provides for the number of Committee members, which must be at least five and no more than 12, and requires a Chair and Deputy Chair to be appointed. The Schedule provides for appointments to be made by Her Majesty following, in relation to the Chair, an Address by the House of Commons, and for all other members, on the recommendation of the Secretary of State. The Schedule gives the Speaker’s Committee the same role in the control and oversight of the funding of the Local Government Boundary Commission for England as it has for the Electoral Commission.

Schedule 2 - Local Government Boundary Commission for England: Electoral arrangements

149.     This Schedule sets out the criteria that the Local Government Boundary Commission for England must have regard to when conducting electoral reviews under clause 50. It re-enacts and consolidates the existing statutory criteria previously made by Schedule 11 of the Local Government Act 1972 and sections 13(5), 13(5A) and 14(8) of the Local Government Act 1992. A number of drafting changes have been made to the existing legislation to reflect other changes made in legislation.

Schedule 3 - Interim modifications of the Local Government Act 1992

150.     This Schedule makes modifications to the Local Government Act 1992 which will apply during the interim period starting on the day on which the Act is passed and ending with the establishment of the Local Government Boundary Commission for England. During that period, the procedure for implementing recommendations made by the existing Boundary Committee for England is modified so that it does not require the involvement of the Electoral Commission.

Schedule 4 - Local Government Boundary Commission for England: consequential and supplementary amendments

151.     This Schedule makes amendments to the Local Government Act 1972, the Environment Act 1995, the Greater London Authority Act 1999 and the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 consequential upon Part 3 of the Bill. These changes reflect the establishment of the Local Government Boundary Commission for England as an independent body, the transfer of local government boundary and electoral functions from the Electoral Commission to the new Commission, and the new electoral review procedures set out in Part 3 of this Bill. In particular, paragraphs 19 to 21 makes substantial amendments to arrangements for the review of Greater London Assembly constituency boundaries under the Greater London Authority Act 1999. Under these provisions, where the Secretary of State makes a boundary change order under section 10 of the 2007 Act which affects a London borough, the new Local Government Boundary Commission for England must consider whether or not to conduct a review of the Greater London Assembly constituencies. An order made by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England to implement any recommendation for changes to Assembly constituencies will be subject to the draft negative resolution procedure (see notes on clause 56(9) above).

PART 4: LOCAL AUTHORITY ECONOMIC ASSESSMENTS

Background - Parts 4 to 7

152.     In July 2007, the Government published the Review of Sub-National Economic Development and Regeneration” 7. The review set out possible reforms that could be made which would affect regions and local authorities. In March 2008, the Government published the consultation document Prosperous Places: Taking forward the Review of Sub National Economic Development and Regeneration 8. This consultation closed on the 20th June 2008. The provisions in Parts 4, 5, 6 and 7 follow from this consultation process.


    3   http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/d/subnational_econ_review170707.pdf

    4   http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file45468.pdf

Clause 66 - Duty of responsible local authorities to prepare economic assessment

153.     This clause requires principal local authorities to prepare an assessment of the economic conditions of their area.

154.     Subsection (3) defines “principal local authorities” as county councils, district councils other than a council for a district for which there is a county council (unitary authorities), the Council of the Isles of Scilly, London boroughs and the City of London Corporation. Subsection (2) enables a responsible authority to revise its assessment, or any part or aspect of it, at any time. Subsection (4) places a duty on a principal local authority to consult such persons it considers appropriate.

155.     Where the responsible authority is a county council, subsection (5) requires it to consult and seek the participation of the district councils within its area in carrying out its assessment. The county council must also have regard to any material produced by district councils in the discharge of their responsibilities under section 13 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, which requires them to keep under review matters which may be expected to affect the development of their area or the planning of its development. Subsection (5)(c) requires district councils to co-operate with the county council.

156.     Subsection (6) requires principal local authorities to have regard to guidance issued by the Secretary of State setting out what an assessment should contain and how it should be prepared, when an assessment should be prepared and when it should be revised. Under subsection (7) the Secretary of State is required to consult representatives of local government and other such persons the Secretary of State considers appropriate before issuing guidance.

 
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