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Amendment 7 ensures that the clause will enable people to contribute their views and requires councillors to explain how they do that. We agree that the intention behind this amendment is absolutely right. It is essential that people understand how their council will consult them and take their views seriously not only so that challenges can be taken up more easily but so that it is transparent if a councillor is not doing enough in this area. Clause 1(3)(d) covers consultation because our definition of democratic arrangements is the arrangements for members of the public to participate in or influence the making of decisions. “Influencing” clearly includes doing that via the consultation processes. I am very sympathetic to the spirit of these amendments, so I am happy to put on the record that these clauses encompass what noble Lords want to achieve. I am also determined that there should not be any doubt about that.

However, for all the reasons noble Lords have already given, we do not want to overload the Bill with detail, so we will set out in guidance the scope and the processes that will be covered in relation to the amendments. That will be useful. We will make it clear that we would like councillors to explain how councils and connected authorities work to involve the public and the different ways in which they do so.

In response to Amendment 25, I shall elaborate on what I have briefly stressed. I am not sure whether respectable and important democratic bodies, such as the Broads Authority, parish councils or strategic health authorities, would want to be dismissed as undemocratic

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quangos as the noble Baroness did. If she believes they are so undemocratic, it is important that the point of the Bill is to open up these processes so that people know who is on them representing the community, how they can be most effective and how they can be expanded. It is something that the bodies in question are sympathetic to. We have liaised with the relevant bodies to ensure that the connected authorities are signed up to carrying out their role. When we come on to those amendments, I will explain why the list is as it is. These bodies are keen to promote their work and their civic roles to a wider audience. Why should they not be when so much of their work can be made more effective if the local community knows what they do and supports them in it?

We have no reason to believe that they will not co-operate fully to explain the nature of their democratic arrangements. Should such a conflict arise, we have kept a reserve power for the Secretary of State to use if absolutely necessary, which appears in Clause 5(3), but we fully expect the information they provide to be information they already have to hand and want to disseminate to a wider audience. We are happy for councils to use website links and other technological solutions to ensure that there is no duplication. We will use the guidance to make sure that connected authorities’ functions and decisions are explained in an accessible way.

In conclusion, the provisions in Clauses 1 and 2 work together to ensure that the way in which councils and the connected authorities make decisions, what they do, which of those decisions are made by those in civic roles and which by employees, will all be encompassed by this duty. I hope noble Lords are persuaded of that because these are important issues. We are happy to try to meet the intent of the amendments in that way.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: I listened with care to what the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, said—I enjoyed his example about snow clearing—and I listened with care to what the Minister said. Some time ago, the Minister and I both sat in a Committee on a Bill when I challenged the optimism with which the Government were reviewing the immediate future of the economy. One day, I shall look at precisely what the Minister said, but she implied that I had totally the wrong end of the stick and that the economy was in extraordinarily good shape. Events, on the whole, have betrayed her. She is exercising the same degree of optimism about what will happen as a result of this legislation.

I may be suffering from an experience similar to that described by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, about the responsibility for snow clearing changing hands. I live in an authority which is undergoing the transition into a unitary authority, instead of a series of district councils, a decision which was not reached democratically on the ground, but which was imposed from elsewhere. I would not say that people where I live could answer an examination question on who is responsible for what now, but I am absolutely clear that the consequence of change is that it will be a long time before they work out who is responsible for what under the new system. I am hesitant about how well all this will work.

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Lord Greaves: I have two main points. Early in her reply, whether to my amendments or not, the Minister said that if people do not know who makes the decisions or how the system works that is an insuperable barrier to getting involved. I do not think that is so. It may be the case, but in many instances people do not decide they want to get involved over a particular issue or under some initiative to encourage them to get involved and then say what they are interested in or concerned about. Sometimes they do that in quite an inappropriate place, having regard to the way in which the system works technically, but they are pointed in the right direction or their concerns are pursued in the right channels, although initially they do not have a clue who does what. It is not true to say that getting involved is impossible if you do not know who is responsible for the recycling or gritting or the allocation of funds to schools or whatever. Once you start to get involved, you find your way around the system and there are plenty of people to help you.

It is important not to deny that the central part of Chapter 1, the idea of providing people with the information about who does what in their area, is a good idea. I want to be quite clear about that. I am not in any way saying that that should not be done, but I just think that five pages of detailed primary legislation is not the way to do it.

My second point relates to my amendments and decision-making. I thank the Minister for looking at the duplication issue. This is a crucial definition. It is the definition which forms the keystone to this chapter because the whole chapter is about promoting understanding in these democratic arrangements. The definition, as set out here, is not satisfactory. It says that,

It does not say that it includes an explanation of the decision-making system in which they can get involved. If you want to get involved in things, you cannot necessarily turn up to a meeting and have your say because the decision may be delegated to an officer in the authority, or to another body, or to a private-sector body which may be doing it on behalf of the council. However, there are almost always ways in which you can, if you wish, have an influence, if only by writing a letter to the person who makes the decision or by getting some other body which does not actually have responsibility for making the decision to agree with you and pass on your views as part of the process of influencing the decision. What is in the Bill is therefore unsatisfactory as a crucial, central definition.

It occurred to me when the Minister was talking that I had put down the wrong amendment. I should not have attempted to write “decision-making” everywhere, but simply have changed the definition of “democratic arrangements”. The Minister said that she did not want to broaden it accidentally to include, for example, disciplinary procedures, appointing the caretaker, matters of commercial confidentiality et cetera. However, the advice that she is getting is contrary to normal practice and experience in local government. Local government is so at ease with the system that it operates that there are some matters that, if they come to committee, are usually called “part 2 items”; that is, decisions that are

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not made in the glare of publicity, and are not open to the press and public because they may be commercially sensitive or to do with individuals and their circumstances, be they personnel matters or otherwise. That applies right the way through. The distinction is very well understood in local government and at officer level. If I as a councillor try to put influence on an officer who has to take one of those decisions, I may well be out of order—although I may be able to put in some influence in other cases. That distinction is therefore very clearly understood in local government. Setting out the decision-making system in no way broadens the ability of people to interfere in matters which are by their very nature inappropriate for general public debate.

5.15 pm

Even where there are issues such as that—for example, those which are commercially confidential or related to personnel, it does not stop the authority writing that down as part of the definition of the decision-making system. If part of the decision-making system is inaccessible to the general public for very good reasons, that is information that they should have, not least because they will then know that they cannot turn up and talk about the matter at a meeting and that, if they try to do so, they will, one hopes, be prevented by the chairman.

I do not think that I am pushing the matter too far with the amendment. The definition in the Bill is not appropriate for what the Government are trying to do. I am trying to be helpful to the Government; I am not trying to be destructive. I would ask the Minister to look specifically at that decision to see whether it can encompass what we all want to see; namely, the map produced.

Lord Tope: I am pleased that the Minister has recognised, albeit slightly too late for her own good, the huge political significance of refuse collection and gritting schedules. No councillor of any experience would ever change a refuse collection schedule shortly before an election; those who have done it have learned why they should not have. I see lots of nods of assent around the Room. I am afraid that it is reality.

My noble friend Lord Greaves explained the position very well. I simply endorse what he said about what, as far as I am aware, is certainly common practice throughout local government. We may need to give a little more attention to it. On the amendments in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Hamwee to which I spoke, particularly those relating to the role of councillors, I understand that it is the intention they are covered by other subsections. By normal interpretation, they probably are, but what councillors do is so little understood—sometimes by councillors themselves—that we need to give more attention to it. Councillors generally—I am getting into difficult ground—are getting older and it is becoming more difficult, for various reasons, including pressures of everyday life, to attract younger people from different communities, so that we have a much more diverse representation among councillors. A number of authorities are trying hard to address those problems with limited success. In the context of this Bill and what we seek to achieve, we

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perhaps should give more thought to being more specific about the importance of understanding the role, function and nature of the work of local councillors in terms of achieving the local democracy that we all want and in whether we can find a better way to make specific reference to that in the Bill. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 3 withdrawn.

Amendment 4 not moved.

Amendment 5

Moved by Lord Greaves

5: Clause 1, page 1, line 10, at end insert—

“(ba) the democratic and decision-making arrangements of partnerships and other bodies in which the authority takes part and to which it has voluntarily devolved functions or in which it voluntarily shares functions with other participating bodies;”

Lord Greaves: This amendment focuses for the first time in this Committee on local partnerships, which are extremely important as part of local governance. They hardly existed 20 years ago. All the signs are that they will not go away, but will become more important. It is impossible to draw a sensible map of the system of local governance without including all the partnership arrangements and partnership bodies, some of which exist as statutory bodies and some of which do not. Some just exist and have come about on a voluntary basis. The Government may say that they exist on a voluntary basis but local strategic partnerships are not really voluntary bodies. The Government say that we have to have them, but they have no basis in local government law. They play a different part in different areas, but they are important pretty well everywhere. Amendment 5 refers to local strategic partnerships and to crime and disorder reduction partnerships. Crime and disorder reduction partnerships are statutory bodies, but they are still partnerships of local bodies.

A few years ago, as these bodies were burgeoning, my noble friend Lord Shutt of Greetland, while he was still a councillor, asked the chief executive of Calderdale Council in west Yorkshire to draw up a list of all the partnerships, local trusts and similar bodies on which that council had representation, and there were more than 100 bodies. How local decisions are made cannot be described without including them. Some of us would call it the local “quangocracy” and we may think that they have gone too far. However, following the previous legislation that we discussed in the Moses Room, changes to LSPs and local area agreements have probably improved matters and have put the council more at the centre of what is going on than it was.

Nevertheless, it is complex and, for the purpose of the amendment, it exists. There are very often opportunities within these partnerships for people to go along and take part. Some of them are distinctly unfriendly and secretive in how they take decisions, while others—LSPs, for example—may have sub-committees, working groups or local forums set up under the auspices of the LSP, which are specifically

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there to involve people. So it is ludicrous to leave them out. Crime reduction partnerships are there to involve people, and people can go along and take part in them.

So there are opportunities, although LSPs exist in a sort of vacuum. They remind me of the old rhyme:

“Yesterday upon the stair,

I met a man who wasn't there.He wasn't there again todayI wish that man would go away”.

LSPs are a bit like that—they are there, even when they are not there, in the legislation—and they are important.

Amendment 20 simply attempts to define a partnership for this purpose. I am not at all sure that it is the right definition, but I could not find the definition of a partnership in relation to local government in any legislation. The Minister may be able to tell me where it is, but I could not find it. So I am suggesting that a partnership means,

I am quite sure that it should be there, however the Government feel that it should be defined. I beg to move.

Lord Smith of Leigh: The first partnership that I got involved with in my career was the City Challenge Board, which the Conservative Government insisted that we set up to get some money. We were always a very pragmatic authority. If there was any money involved and we were asked to set up a partnership, we would do that if we could get the money.

The noble Lord makes a point about the distinction between voluntary and statutory bodies, because that is not as clear as it might be. LSPs are now major players in monitoring local area agreements, so they do have a role. However, I did not understand what he said about partnerships within an authority area. If we try to map governance, in a sense there are partnerships beyond an authority’s area—sometimes in collaboration, formal or informal, with other local authorities, and sometimes with other bodies and private sector organisations within a wider field.

If we are trying to do something that people understand and which means something, my only concern is that we need to ensure we are talking about significant rather than marginal things. Otherwise, there will just be a complex geography map that no one will understand, not least those of us who are actively involved in local government. We need to bear in mind that, if we want something that will mean something and will help people get round the difficulties within local government, it has to be reasonably simple.

Lord Greaves: I wonder whether I could just reply. The amendments refer specifically to a body which includes the principal local authority. It might be the area of the authority and it might be smaller, but it could certainly be much bigger.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: I shall make a very brief intervention based on the last two speeches. I recognise the complication of relationships that extend beyond authority boundaries. In the notable book

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written by the father of the noble Viscount, Lord Slim, describing actions in which he fought between 1917 and 1943, he quotes at the beginning of a chapter what the official history says and then describes what happened at large in the event. It includes the memorable moment in Waziristan when a group of officers who are planning an attack on a rebel leader meet to discuss the plan. The father of the noble Viscount, Lord Slim, produces the memorable sentence:

“The British army is always required to fight uphill and at the juncture of the two or more maps”.

The problem of the two or more maps is one which all of us who have had to deal with these things is familiar.

I support the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, on the basis of another analogy. I was once responsible for securing the appointment of the chief executive of a Great British company to the board of another Great British company, but one which was in a technical field outside his own direct experience. At the end of his first board meeting, he told the secretary that the board’s agenda contained 89 acronyms that meant something to people in the company and that unless he was provided with a lexicon for them before the next meeting he would not bother to attend. In producing the lexicon, the secretary apologised because he had had to make inquiries about 55 of the 89 acronyms about which the chief executive had complained. There is an argument in favour of this sort of information being available. We cannot expect councillors to pass it on unless they have the information in the first place.

5.30 pm

Baroness Andrews: We have touched on a fertile seam about partnerships, which will return in later groups—for example, when we look at Amendments 47, 48 and 57. I take the point that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, made about the acronyms that now clutter the important partnerships. The range of partnerships has evolved over the past few years to deliver services that may previously have been delivered separately and to bring people together who may have been doing much the same job with different sorts of funding in different parts of the local authority. This growth in partnership has been necessary and evolutionary, and is a progressive way forward. It is a factor to be reckoned with and, in the context of what we want to achieve in Clauses 1 and 2, we have to be sure that people are aware of the range of mechanisms that shape, influence and deliver local services. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, was right to bring this forward.

Many of them are done through partnerships, and the LSP is critical to that. We encouraged that in the local government White Paper, Strong and Prosperous Communities, and in the report of the Lyons inquiry into the future of local government. They are a fundamental part of the way in which councils, the police and other bodies make joint decisions about services that affect people and they play a key role in identifying local authority and policy responses through the LSP. LSPs are challenging organisations that have a uniquely important role because they bring so many statutory and voluntary agencies together. When they work, they work extremely effectively. As well as the

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LSPs, there is a range of specific partnerships to co-ordinate services for children or older people, or to regenerate an area within the local authority, as well as the crime and disorder partnerships that the noble Lord has already identified.

I am in sympathy with what he is addressing. However, we do not need additions to the duties to bring them within scope. Before I go on with that, in the past two debates I have been struck by the fact that noble Lords opposite are wrestling with what we wrestled with in framing the Bill. They want more detail and definition and for things to be clearer, but, at the same time, they do not want to expand the Bill. That would be the effect of putting some of this detail in it. In the first debate, the noble Lord was scathing about having eight or whatever pages on this, but in exploring these issues, we are exploring the necessity for the sort of detail that will enable people to get on and do the job without being hampered by confusions and ambiguities, and without overloading them by being overprescriptive.

While other partnerships and bodies may or may not be part of the formal decision-making mechanisms of the council, they fall within the definition of arrangements that the council has made to enable people to influence its decisions. For example, although LSP decision-making arrangements may not be the same as the council's decision-making process, the council will clearly be involved in what the LSP decides and therefore, so far as there are any arrangements for people to get involved in LSP decision-making, they would be covered by our duty.

That is the same answer that I gave to the previous set of amendments. They are covered by the duty, although not explicitly. The noble Lord is dissatisfied with that definition; I have listened to what he said. Essentially, it is part of the general values which we put on this activity and it is what we wanted to encompass. As such, when we ask local authorities to provide information on their functions and democratic arrangements, we consider that, and when we ask them to provide information on the functions and democratic arrangements of health, the police and the other connected authorities, we are asking them to include information on the partnerships in which they are involved.

On the final element of Amendment 5, the noble Lord proposes that local authorities should provide information on the democratic arrangements for other bodies in which the authority takes part and to which it has voluntarily devolved functions or in which it voluntarily shares functions with other participating bodies. We are not sure exactly what he means. If he is referring to delegated functions then that is not necessary as an authority has no power to delegate functions to any partnership. Where functions are delegated within the structure of the authority to officers, committees and members, the decisions made in this official capacity would already be covered by our definition of democratic arrangements.

So where local authorities have decided to contract out services to other providers, we would expect that the decisions made by the council about delivery of those services here—say, bin collection—would be

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included. I am afraid to say “bin collection” in any context now, so I shall have to find a substitute. On the other hand, the service providers themselves are independent, possibly commercial, entities which do not have public functions and would not have democratic arrangements in which to be involved.

The noble Lord seeks to ensure that partnerships are included both within the requirement on local authorities set out in Clause 1(1) and by adding to the list of connected authorities. As I have said, we have covered that. We would expect local authorities to be sensible in how they interpret this so that if the decision-making of each individual participant is within our provisions, they would also include information about how they go about making decisions within the partnership itself.

That is why we think that guidance will be a help. It will allow us to provide a clear steer to local authorities about the scope of information we expect them to provide, which will include partnership working. It makes better sense to do that in guidance than to put that kind of detail in the Bill. I hope that the noble Lord agrees with me.

Lord Greaves: I am grateful to the Minister for that long reply. I am not sure I understood it all. I shall read it and the Bill again. My initial reaction is that her basic premise that it is all covered by the duty has not convinced me and I think it is probably wrong. I shall have another think and take further advice.

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