Localism Bill

Memorandum submitted by Age UK, Mencap, The National Autistic Society, RNIB, Sense and Scope (L 46)

Secretary of State’s Power [Clause 5 (2)]

This measure is designed to give councils more freedom in running services, giving local authorities the ability to do anything an individual can do, rather than only being able to do things that Parliament specifically authorises. Whilst in isolation this appears to maintain adequate safeguards, requiring local authorities to act in accordance with statutory limitations or restrictions, we are concerned with Clause 5 (2), which gives the Secretary of State power to ‘amend, repeal, revoke, or disapply any statutory provision (whenever passed or made)’. This power is limited by:

a) A requirement to consult local authorities, representatives of local government and other persons the Secretary of State considers appropriate and,

b) By a requirement to lay a draft order before parliament. 

Despite these safeguards, the wide ranging nature of the Secretary of State’s powers presents concerns. Statutory requirements currently placed on local authorities include:

· The requirement to assess the needs of people asking for social care support; 

· The requirement of local authorities to have due regard to public equality duties;

· Requirements relating to the safeguarding of vulnerable adults.

These are very important statutory duties providing a clear legal framework for people at some of the most vulnerable times in their lives. Although the Local Government Act 2000 granted similar power (the ‘wellbeing’ power) to the Secretary of State and has not been used to influence primary legislation, we are concerned that the power in this Bill is subject to less parliamentary constraint and may therefore be used more widely.

January 2011