Memorandum submitted by the Local Government
Association (SAGE 43)
1.1 The LGA is the single voice for local government.
As a voluntary membership body, we are funded almost entirely
by the subscriptions of over 400 member authorities in England
and Wales. We lobby and campaign for changes in policy and legislation
on behalf of our member authorities and the people and communities
1.2 The LG Group is made up of six organisationsthe
Local Government Association, Local Government Improvement and
Development, Local Government Employers, Local Government Regulation,
Local Partnerships and the Leadership Government Leadership. Our
shared ambition is to make an outstanding contribution to the
success of local government.
1.3 In an emergency that requires national coordination
the roles and responsibilities of key agencies, including the
LGA, is set out in the Central Government's Concept of Operations
(CONOPS). Since 2006, the LGA has attended meetings of the Civil
Contingencies Committee, colloquially known as COBR, on an ad-hoc
basis. We believe that there needs to be a presumption that the
LGA should be invited to attend COBR to represent the views and
interests of councils and their communities during times of national
1.4 The following submission is based upon the
experience of LGA Lead Members and officers involved in the national
response to recent emergencies and comments received from local
authority officers in their capacity as advisors to the LGA Group.
It concentrates on the three issues identified as being of interest
to the Committee in the letter sent to the LGA on 11th November.
2. How local authorities receive information from
central Government and whether the process is felt to be satisfactory
2.1 The majority of communications from central
Government on emergency planning come via Regional Resilience
Teams based in Government Offices, who forward information to
the secretariats of Local Resilience Forums (LRFs), who then pass
the information on to local responders including local authorities.
One of the primary sources of information is the Resilience Gateway,
which is essentially an email from the Civil Contingencies Secretariat
(CCS) in the Cabinet Office which is circulated to RRTs, who then
pass this on to LRFs.
2.2 The disadvantage of the current cascading
approach is that it frequently results in significant delays in
the communication of information from central Government to the
local level. This indirect approach relies on the recipients at
the regional level being available, having sufficient understanding
of the issues and up to date contact lists, which is not always
the case. This is of particular concern in times of emergency
when it can result in delays of several days before local authorities
receive top-line briefs and requests for information on local
and impacts and issues, which means that the information is often
out of date or difficult to respond to. There is a need for a
more direct, targeted approach which would ensure that critical
information is communicated in a timely manner to those who need
it during emergencies.
2.3 There is also concern that the RRTs make
judgements about what information they need to pass from central
Government to LRFs. While this may be done with the intention
of reducing the burden on LRF secretariats, there is the danger
that this filtering process may result in LRFs not receiving all
the information that they need from central Government.
2.4 The disbandment of Government Offices in
March 2011 will have implications for Regional Resilience Teams
and we understand that the Government is currently considering
options for support for resilience activity at the sub-national
level. There is a need for the Government to consult with local
government and other responders on future arrangements and how
these might impact upon communications relating to emergencies.
2.5 The Government has promoted the National
Resilience Extranet as a quicker and more effective means of communicating
and sharing information with local authorities and other local
responders at times of emergency. Due to concerns about the cost
of NRE subscriptions and the value of the information currently
available through the NRE, not all local authorities have subscribed
to the NRE. As a result, the LGA is concerned that if the Government
were to use the NRE as the primary means of communicating information
with local authorities during an emergency, a significant number
might not receive important information.
2.6 The LG Group has played a key role in communicating
key national messages to local authorities during recent emergencies,
including the 2001 and 2007 Foot and Mouth Disease outbreaks and
other subsequent animal disease outbreaks, the 2007 floods, the
2009 swine flu pandemic and the severe weather in the winters
of 2008-09 and 2009-10. The LGA is able to assemble and disseminate
essential information and guidance to local authorities very quickly
via its website and database of emergency planning contacts in
all local authorities in England and Wales. For example during
the swine flu pandemic the LGA set up a dedicated policy unit,
drawing on resources from across the LGA Group and implemented
a set of regular briefings and tailored guidance for councils.
Key outputs included:
A special LGA Group swine flu briefing
event in Birmingham in July 2009 aimed at sharing lessons learnt
from the first wave.
A special swine flu guide for elected
members which helped other parts of the country gear up for the
A survey sent to all emergency planning
officers across England and Wales. The final report was published
in December 2009.
Online advisory notes on the human resource
implications of swine flu.
3. How local authorities contribute to the development
of the National Risk Register and whether the process is felt
to be satisfactory
3.1 In theory the development of the NRR is
a two way process. The risks identified in the publicly-available
NRR should inform the development of Regional Risk Registers (RRRs)
by the RRTs and the Community Risk Register (CRRs) developed by
LRFs. In return the risks identified in RRRs and CRRs should be
fed back into the classified National Risk Assessment which informs
3.2 In practice the process is very top-down
and provides very little opportunity for local authorities to
input. While local authorities usually have the opportunity to
contribute to CRRs via LRFs, the NRR is rarely informed by issues
identified at the sub-regional and regional level. The two-way
process is hindered by the fact that the NRR and RRR use different
criteria from CRRs for assessing risks. There is often pressure
to include national risks identified in the NRR in CRRs which
may not be relevant in a sub-regional context.
3.3 There is also concern and frustration amongst
local authorities that officers with security clearance do not
have access to the classified information in the National Risk
Assessment, which makes it difficult to assess how the threats
identified in the National Risk Register will impact on local
areas and how local authorities should manage these through their
emergency planning arrangements.
4. Whether local authorities feel they have adequate
access to scientific information for making risk assessments,
understanding information from central Government and for emergency
4.1 In general local authorities tend to rely
on local contacts with key agencies or partners in LRFs to share
relevant scientific information and provide advice needed for
risk assessment and emergency planning at the local level. In
the event of an emergency the primary source of scientific advice
to local authorities tends to be the Science and Technical Advice
Cell formed collectively by local responders to advise the Strategic
Co-ordination Group of the LRF.
4.2 Experience of accessing scientific information
held centrally varies across local authorities and different types
of emergency, with some local authorities reporting a good flow
of scientific information from central Government Departments
and agencies, but many citing concerns about delays in distributing
information similar to those highlighted in relation to the circulation
of more general information on civil contingencies.
4.3 Some authorities have also highlighted that
scientific advice from central Government often does not provide
a clear view on key issues which have implications for the emergency
planning, for example in relation to planning for excess deaths
resulting from emergencies.
Local Government Association
22 November 2010