Political and Constitutional Reform CommitteeSupplementary written evidence submitted by Emeritus Professor George Jones and Emeritus Professor John Stewart

In my and John Stewart’s written evidence to the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee at paragraph 8 we recommended:

“There is a need for a statutory statement of principles on the constitutional position of local government. They should include recognition that:

Local government is part of the constitution, as in other countries;

The primary role of local government is the government of local communities, enabling their well-being;

Local government needs the powers and resources to carry out that primary role;

The primary accountability of local authorities is to their local citizens;

Local authorities require powers to ensure the accountability of local appointed boards to local people; and

Central government should respect the constitutional position of local authorities, taking full account of their views on any legislation or policy bearing on them, and limiting prescription to where there is a clear national interest.”

In our oral evidence session when answering Q50 in the uncorrected evidence I said that the committee might use as the “first building blocks” of a codification the words of The European Charter of Local Self Government, but omitting the qualifications inserted to obtain the acceptance of the British Government. I have made an initial attempt at this task myself. I have taken the clauses from the Charter as initially adopted on 15 October 1985 and removed the qualifications, renumbering the sections. I have not included anything from the additional protocol to the Charter of 16 November 2009 whose clauses dealt with the right of the public to participate in the affairs of a local authority. The focus below is on the essential nature of local government and relationship between central and local government. I have added in italics to Article 1 three sections from the Jones/Stewart evidence above.

Article 1—Concept of Local Government

1. The primary role of local government, exercised by local elected councils, is the government of local communities, enabling their well-being.

2. Local government needs the powers and resources under their own responsibility to carry out that primary role.

3. The primary accountability of local authorities for the exercise of their responsibilities is to their local citizens.

Article 2—Scope of Local Government

1. The basic duties and powers of local authorities shall be prescribed by statute.

2. Local authorities will be responsible for developing the involvement and empowerment of their communities and citizens in public affairs

3. Local authorities shall have full discretion to exercise their initiative on any matter not assigned by statute to any other public authority.

4. Public responsibilities shall be exercised by those authorities closest to the citizen.

5. Local authorities shall provide leadership to public bodies in its area who will be accountable to local people through the local authorities.

6. Powers given to local authorities shall be full and exclusive. They may not be undermined or limited by any central or other authority.

7. Local authorities shall be consulted in due time in the planning and decision-making processes of central government for all matters which concern them directly.

Article 3—Protection of Local Authority Boundaries

1. Changes in local authority boundaries shall not be made without prior consultation of the local communities concerned.

Article 4—Appropriate Management Structures of Local Authorities

1. Local authorities shall be able to determine their own internal management and political structures.

2. The conditions of service of local government employees shall ensure the recruitment of high-quality staff on the basis of merit and competence and adequate training opportunities, remuneration and career prospects shall be provided.

Article 5—Conditions under which Councillor Responsibilities are Exercised

1. The conditions of office of local elected representatives shall provide for free exercise of their functions.

2. They shall allow for appropriate financial compensation for expenses incurred and remuneration for their role and responsibilities.

Article 6—External Supervision of Local Authorities’ Activities

1. Any external supervision of the activities of local authorities shall aim only at ensuring compliance with the law.

2. External inspection and assessment should be initiated by and reported to local authorities and their citizens.

Article 7—Financial Resources of Local Authorities

1. Local authorities shall be entitled to adequate financial resources of their own, of which they may dispose freely within the framework of their statutory powers.

2. Local authorities’ financial resources shall be commensurate with the responsibilities.

3. All the financial resources of local authorities shall derive from local taxes and charges over which they shall have the power to determine the rate. The only exceptions should be grants designed to correct the effects of the unequal distribution of potential sources of finance and of the financial burdens they must support.

4. The financial systems on which resources available to local authorities are based shall be of a sufficiently diversified and buoyant nature to enable them to keep pace with the cost of carrying out their tasks.

5. For the purpose of borrowing for capital investment, local authorities shall have access to the national capital market.

Article 8—Legal Protection of Local Self-Government

1. Local authorities shall have the right of recourse to a judicial remedy in order to secure free exercise of their powers and respect for the principles of local government.

February 2011

Prepared 28th January 2013