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New Section 44E provides for the normal term of office of the leader of a council which is subject to election by halves and thirds. It states that, unless removed from office, the leader’s term of office should end on the day of the annual meeting following the day on which he would normally have retired as councillor. That means that his term of office may be less than four years, depending on how long he had been in post as leader. That allows for the political reality of the situation as well as an additional element of stability. It will prevent the leader constantly having to seek re-election and look over his shoulder. The noble Lord referred to the difficulties that leaders face when they have to do that.

These days we need council leaders to take hard and strategic decisions on behalf of their local area as a whole. The amendments would do no more than retain the existing difficulties and obstructions which stop that strategic power being employed.

The provision of four-year terms and stronger leadership will go alongside stronger accountability and overview. It does not say that the council leader cannot be removed through the normal procedure of a vote of no confidence. That is provided for in many individual council constitutions. Nor does it necessarily undermine the situation that could arise. I understand that in councils with no overall control the situation is more complicated, but the council elects the leader and it is entirely open to it to appoint a Cabinet across the parties. That is a familiar animal. When the provisions are in place, coalition discussions could support and accommodate these changes, which would provide stability.



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We believe that the four-year term introduces a real element of progress. We are supported in that view by the Local Government Association. I hope that I have persuaded the noble Lord of that.

Lord Greaves: The more I listen to the Minister—and I do not blame her personally—the more I think the Government are not living in the real world. If we are trying to inject anything into this debate, it is common sense.

The Government talk about strong leadership. There is nothing weaker than a leader who has lost control, credibility and confidence—who might have gone politically or personally crackers, due to difficult circumstances—hanging on because, institutionally, he can do so. That is the weakest leadership possible.

Baroness Andrews: In those circumstances, the leader can be removed by the council by a vote of no confidence.

Lord Greaves: I listened carefully to the Minister when she said that councils could put this in their constitution. We have to insist that they do so, as an absolute minimum, so that they can remove a leader who has lost credibility or confidence or has gone off the rails. The Government might consider that seriously when they come back.

The Minister is right that if a leader has to be removed, for whatever reason—because people have voted a different way, for example—it will be done. The means with which to do it are difficult, awkward and messy, whereas at present, if people want to change the leadership in November, for example, they have time to work it out, the motion comes up automatically and it can be done cleanly. In that way, there is no opportunity for people to fight back and use the institutional situation to hang on.

We are arguing about democracy and accountability. Quite apart from the fact that the council I am on is subject to an election by thirds, I argue that if we had the choice, we should do it annually. I do not think that the Minister accurately describes the present situation in local government. She talked about people constantly having to look over their shoulder; she talked about constant change. In the councils I know around the country, that is not the case. There is remarkable stability. Let me give the example of Lancashire County Council—for my sins, I used to be a member of it. I have been racking my brains, and over the past 33 years, since it was set up under the 1972 Act, it has had five leaders—maybe six. That does not demonstrate instability or constant change. In my council, the present leader has been there since the year before we gained control and—electors willing—I have no doubt that he will stay there for some time.

Next door, Burnley changed its leader just over a year ago, but that was in clear response to the decisions of the voters in the local election. It did not need a four-year timetable to do that; it had the same leader of one party for quite a long time and it now has a leader from another party. The change occurred at the naturally right moment, when the council changed

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control. Surely that is how it should work, rather than people trying to hang on, particularly when there is no overall control.

Finally, the model will cause problems for a few councils that do not have overall control and have evolved their own special arrangements. Some councils, usually the smaller ones, have joint leaders. The Minister and the Government might hold up their hands in horror and say, “This is dreadful; we can’t possibly have job-sharing”. Job-sharing is a good new Labour ideology—it is done everywhere else, but not in running a council. But some councils without overall control have had joint leaders and these provisions will prevent that.

Letting councils sort out their own sensible arrangements makes them likely to be more stable, more resilient and will provide better leadership than trying to fit everyone into a “one size fits all” system. Having said that, we will go away and think about this again. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 174 to 182 not moved.]

Lord Greaves moved Amendment No. 183:

The noble Lord said: This is a probing amendment, and I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 184 and 185. The Minister said that a leader’s term of office would come to an end when he loses his seat. However, the provision I am drawing attention to here suggests that a leader may continue his four-year term of office regardless of anything that might cause him to be removed, other than things like criminal activity. I seek an explanation of this. Is it the case that there are no circumstances in which the leader of a council under any of these models who loses his seat or fails to stand for his seat when the local elections come around, would be able to continue as leader of the council for the remainder of his leadership period? That is what this provision seems to suggest is possible, but I hope I am wrong. I beg to move.

Baroness Andrews: Amendment No. 183 would remove new Section 44F which provides for the executive leader of a council and Cabinet executive to continue as a member of the council. Amendment No. 184 would remove new Section 44G which specifies how an elected leader can be removed from office. Amendment No. 185 would remove new Section 44H which specifies the regulations the Secretary of State can make in relation to the term of office of a leader and the filling of vacancies. The effect of the amendment would be that the Secretary of State would be unable to make regulations in these areas.

The noble Lord has stated that these are probing amendments, so perhaps I may inform the Committee about what the Bill actually does. Clause 72 creates new Sections 44A to 44H in the Local Government Act 2000. Together they make provision in respect of a new leader. In brief, they are an essential strand of the provisions for the strengthened leader and Cabinet model, and they provide for four-year terms for leaders.



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Rather than plough through my note, I shall simply answer the question put by the noble Lord. Yes, if the leader does lose his seat, he cannot continue as the leader. I think that that sums up what the noble Lord has asked.

Lord Greaves: I am grateful for that response. Would it also apply if the leader’s term of office comes to an end and he does not apply for it again?

Baroness Andrews: I believe that the same thing would apply.

Lord Greaves: I thank the noble Baroness and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 184 and 185 not moved.]

Baroness Andrews moved Amendment No. 186:

“(za) as to the dates on which and years in which executive leaders of leader and cabinet executives (England) are to be elected by local authorities,(zb) as to the intervals between elections of executive leaders of leader and cabinet executives (England),”

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 72, as amended, agreed to.

Baroness Andrews moved Amendment No. 187:

(a) provision relating to the old governance arrangements, the new governance arrangements, or both kinds of governance arrangements,(b) provision as to the dates on which and years in which relevant elections may or must be held,(c) provision as to the intervals between relevant elections, and(d) provision as to the term of office of any member of any form of executive.(a) an election for the return of an elected mayor;(b) an election for the return of elected executive members;(c) the election by a local authority of the executive leader of a leader and cabinet executive (England).

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 187A and 187B not moved.]

Clause 73 [Time limit for holding further referendum]:

Baroness Andrews moved Amendments Nos. 188 to 190:



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On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 73, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 74 agreed to.

Baroness Andrews moved Amendments Nos. 191 to 193:

(a) the authority is operating alternative arrangements, and(b) the resident population of the authority’s area on 30th June 1999 was 85,000 or more.(a) ceasing to operate alternative arrangements, and(b) starting to operate executive arrangements which provide for a leader and cabinet executive (England).(a) a statement of the extent to which the functions specified in regulations under section 13(3)(b) of the Local Government Act 2000 are to be the responsibility of the leader and cabinet executive (England);(b) a timetable with respect to the implementation of the proposals;(c) details of any transitional arrangements which are necessary for the implementation of the proposals.(a) secure that copies of a document setting out the proposals are available at the authority’s principal office for inspection by members of the public at all reasonable times, and(b) publish in one or more newspapers circulating in its area a notice which—(i) states that the authority has drawn up the proposals,(ii) describes the main features of the proposals,(iii) states that copies of a document setting out the proposals are available at their principal office for inspection by members of the public at such times as may be specified in the notice, and(iv) specifies the address of the principal office.

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(a) section (Larger authorities to cease operating alternative arrangements) applies to a local authority, and(b) it appears to the Secretary of State that the local authority will fail to start to operate a leader and cabinet executive (England) by the day of the authority’s annual meeting in 2009.(a) section 29(2)(a);(b) section 29(2)(b)(ii) to (v).”(a) starts to operate a leader and cabinet executive (England) in accordance with section (Larger authorities to cease operating alternative arrangements) or (Failure to cease operating alternative arrangements), and(b) draws up proposals for a change in those governance arrangements of the kind set out in section 33A of the Local Government Act 2000 (new form of executive).(a) starts with 1 October 2010, and(b) ends with 31 December 2010;(rather than the other period ending with 31 December 2010 that is specified in the table in section 33P(5) of the Local Government Act 2000).

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 75 agreed to.

Clause 76 [Supplementary provision]:

[Amendment No. 194 not moved.]

Clause 76 agreed to.



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7.15 pm

Baroness Hanham moved Amendment No. 194A:

“CHAPTER A1Exemption of London

The noble Baroness said: I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 204D and 204E. They would all remove the London boroughs from consideration for parish councils. Currently there are no parish councils in London and it is only with the advent of this Bill that they could become established in the capital. There are already numerous levels and offshoots of government in London—the Greater London Authority, the existing borough councils, and some neighbourhood associations within existing community council structures.


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