Certificate from the Examiners, Statement of Reasons and Record of Hearing before the Examiners - Local Government Bill [HL] Contents




SESSION 2010-2011


Examination of Bill


1.  The Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 ("the 2007 Act") introduced a mechanism pursuant to which principal authorities could submit to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government ("the Secretary of State") proposals for introducing a single tier of local government in a particular area and which empowered the Secretary of State to implement such proposals by order.

2.  ("Two tier" local government structures means the existence of both district councils and county councils for a certain area; "single tier" refers to the existence of only one local authority for a certain area exercising the functions of both a district and a county council, often described as a unitary council or authority. Section 1 of the 2007 Act contains definitions of "principal authority" and "single tier of local government".)

3.  The scheme of the Act is that proposals are made in response to an invitation under section 2. Section 2 is a power for the Secretary of State to invite local authorities to make proposals for introducing a single tier of local government. Section 2 also enabled the Secretary of State to direct that such proposals be made, but that power was time limited and is no longer in effect. The power to invite proposals is exercisable from time to time. Accordingly, a local authority can make proposals for introducing a single tier of local government only if an invitation to submit such proposals is issued by the Secretary of State.

4.  In 2006 an invitation was made to all principal local authorities in England (outside the areas of Greater London and the Metropolitan Counties), to make proposals to the Secretary of State for a change in local government structures from two tier to single tier. Any proposal was requested to be made by 25 January 2007. On 19 November 2007, as a consequence of a proposal made by Bedford Borough Council in response to the 2006 invitation, a further invitation was made to Bedfordshire County Council, Mid-Bedfordshire District Council, and South Bedfordshire District Council to make a proposal - which needed to be submitted by 17 December 2007 - for future unitary local government structures for the remaining area of Bedfordshire. No other invitations have been issued.

5.  In response to the first invitation, 26 proposals were received by the Secretary of State. In response to the second invitation, one proposal was received. Nine proposals were implemented by structural change orders made in 2008, all of which came into operation in 2009. Of the remaining proposals-

(a)  those proposals made by Norwich City Council, Exeter City Council and Ipswich Borough Council were referred to the Boundary Committee[7], which was asked to advise whether an alternative proposal could be made for some or all of the wider county areas; and

(b)  statutory decisions under the 2007 Act were taken not to implement the other proposals.

6.  In December 2009, the Boundary Committee provided their advice to the Secretary of State which was for a county unitary authority in Devon and Norfolk and either a county unitary or two unitaries for Suffolk.

7.  In February 2010 the then Secretary of State took decisions under the 2007 Act to implement the proposals submitted by Exeter City Council and Norwich City Council rather than the Boundary Committee's alternative proposals.

8.  The resulting Orders were the Exeter and Devon (Structural Changes) Order 2010 and the Norwich and Norfolk (Structural Changes) Order 2010. Parliament approved the Orders; which were made on 24 March 2010 and came into force on the following day. However, as explained below, under the Orders Norwich and Exeter do not actually become unitary authorities until April 2011.

9.  In relation to Suffolk, no decision was taken under the 2007 Act whether or not to implement any of the three proposals submitted but instead a decision was taken to hold a county constitutional convention[8]. As a result, the Ipswich proposal has not proceeded. As regards Norwich and Exeter, implementation of the proposals relating to them is incomplete because the Orders have not yet taken practical effect. Accordingly, the proposals for Ipswich, the County of Suffolk, Norwich and Exeter are all extant but are uncompleted plans (see paragraph 11 below). There are no other proposals under the 2007 Act that are in this position.

Current Policy

10.  On 25 May 2010, Her Majesty's most gracious speech to both Houses of Parliament announced that "Legislation will be introduced to stop uncompleted plans to create unitary councils." On 26 May 2010 the Secretary of State announced[9] that, in pursuance of the Government's policy to reverse uncompleted plans for the implementation of unitary councils before the autumn of 2010, an urgent Bill was to be introduced to revoke the Orders relating to Exeter and Norwich. At the same time, all restructuring plans for Suffolk were to be stopped. On the same day, Mr Bob Neil, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State wrote to all Council Leaders in Devon, Norfolk and Suffolk to inform them of this policy.

11.  In this context "uncompleted plan" means any case where the Secretary of State has already received a proposal for structural change to local government, but where the implementation of such change has either been commenced but not completed or has not taken place at all. As noted above, the Orders relating to Exeter and Norwich have been made, but no authorities affected by the Orders will become unitary authorities until April 2011. Accordingly, proposals in relation to uncompleted plans have been made by Exeter (within Devon County Council), Norwich (within Norfolk County Council) Ipswich (within Suffolk County Council) and by the Boundary Committee in relation to Suffolk.

The Local Government Bill

12.  The Local Government Bill is the Bill anticipated in the Queen's Speech on 25 May and the Secretary of State's 26 May announcement. The Bill is a single topic Bill. Its purpose, as set out in the long title, is to prevent the implementation of existing proposals made for the purposes of Part 1 of the 2007 Act; to revoke the Exeter and Devon (Structural Changes) Order 2010 and the Norwich and Norfolk (Structural Changes) Order 2010; and to make provision consequential on that revocation. The effect of the Bill will therefore be to remove the outstanding but uncompleted plans resulting from the invitation to local authorities made in 2006.

13.  Clause 1(3) of the Bill revokes the Orders already made relating to the Exeter and Norwich proposals.

14.  Clause 1(1) and (2) provides that no order may be made under section 7 of the 2007 Act if it is a relevant order. A relevant order is defined by clause 1(2) as an order implementing a proposal received by the Secretary of State before the commencement of the intended Act. The Bill therefore has the effect of preventing the remaining three uncompleted plans relating to Ipswich and Suffolk from being implemented and making it impossible, after the revocation of the existing Orders, for fresh Orders to be made in respect of the current Exeter and Norwich proposals as submitted in response to the 2006 invitation.

15.  The Bill does not repeal Part 1 of the 2007 Act. Consequently, it is open to the Secretary of State under section 2 of the 2007 Act to invite any principal authority to make a proposal. If the Bill receives Royal Assent and becomes the Local Government Act, were the Secretary of State to make such a further invitation after commencement of that Act, any authority so invited could respond with proposals and those proposals could be implemented.

16.  The Clerk of Public Bills in the House of Lords has advised Government that, in the view of the Public Bill Office, the Bill, in the form in which it was introduced, was not prima facie hybrid. This view has been confirmed in a letter dated 3 June 2010, a copy of which is annexed to this Note[10].

17.  The Bill was introduced in the House of Lords on 26 May 2010. Second reading was scheduled to take place on 8 June 2010. On 8 June 2010, on Lord Howarth of Newport's motion, the House resolved that the Bill be referred to the Examiners.

18.  The Orders have been the subject of judicial review following which judgment was handed down in the High Court on 21 June 2010. The Court found that the decisions of the present Secretary of State's predecessor to make the Orders had been unfair. Consequently, the decisions were unlawful and were quashed. Given the administrative effects of the Orders, the Court will hear submissions shortly following which it will decide whether the Orders should be quashed completely or only in part to retain some administrative provisions. Whatever the final status of the Orders, following the quashing of the decisions, uncompleted plans now remain for Ipswich and Suffolk; Norwich and Norfolk; Exeter and Devon, on which no decision has been taken. The need for the Bill accordingly continues unchanged. Once the status of the Orders has been decided by the Court, the Government will consider what amendments may be required to reflect that decision.

DATED 22 June 2010


Alison M H Gorlov

Winckworth Sherwood LLP

Parliamentary Agent for the Secretary of State

7   The power to allow for this is found in section 4 of the 2007 Act. Back

8   This has no statutory basis but was rather a request for the councils of Suffolk to agree a suitable unitary solution which the Secretary of State would then consider. Back

9   See DCLG Press Notice 26th May 2010 accessible at http://www.communities.gov.uk/news/corporate/159177711


10   [The letter is appended to the Record in Supplement 5Back

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