Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum submitted from the Local Government Association (14 May 2002)

  The Association presented oral evidence to the Committee on 10 April 2002. Subsequent to this, the Committee requested information on several matters. In response to that request, the LGA and its advisors have prepared this supplementary memorandum of evidence.


  The Local Government Association (LGA) believes that central government should share information with all appropriate agencies including local authorities. Local authorities cannot prepare local plans and procedures in partnership with other agencies if they do not receive the same information.

  Local authorities are increasingly often responsible for co-ordinating multi agency planning with other services, including police, fire, ambulance, health, military, etc. However, because of this, and partner agencies limited resources, it is necessary to prioritise plan preparation, training and exercises. If central government has information on possible targets/risks, local authorities will need access to this to enable them to amend work programmes/priorities.

  Local authorities do not have officers or members with security clearance. However, local authorities have considerable experience of dealing with sensitive information and maintaining appropriate confidentiality.

  Sensitive information should be provided to chief executives and leaders of councils who will share this with emergency planning officers and any other appropriate officers.

  The whole essence of emergency planning is to work in partnership with all appropriate agencies. It would be alien to this tried and tested principle, if sensitive information was not shared and planning and preparation for incidents such as 11 September took place in isolation. This would lead to an ineffective and inefficient response and prove that lessons learnt from previous major incidents (and included in government public inquiry reports) had not improved emergency arrangements.


  The ECN is intended to link the local authorities, emergency services and Cabinet Office. However, in some areas such as London, the emergency services are not linked into the system. Although the circuits for the ECN are routed differently to BT/Mercury circuits they are still routed via exchanges. Therefore, if there is a major incident affecting an exchange, such as the Scarborough fire, the ECN will also fail.

  Many local authorities have reported that the ECN has proved unreliable when needed during emergency responses. A number of local authorities also asked the Home Office, previously responsible for emergency planning, to dismantle the Network and release the funding to enhance emergency planning by redistributing this to local authorities.


  Many local authorities have ceased the majority of their private mobile radio schemes and now use mobile phones instead. Any radio schemes still in existence are not compatible with emergency services radios. The LGA believes that radio communications are important during the response to emergencies for all incident commanders. Therefore, compatible radio communications equipment should be available.


  The LGA is very disappointed with the outcome of the Civil Defence Grant distribution for this financial year. The process was late: draft proposals were not circulated to the LGA until 25 February and a meeting with the Minister was only held on 19 March. The final announcement was made on 26 March. Bearing in mind that the determination of authorities' budgets and setting of council tax needs to occur well before this date, this is scarcely a satisfactory state of affairs.

  In the event, 83 authorities lost up to 10 per cent of their grant (although 94 saw increases of up to 20 per cent and another two could not be directed compared due to changes in circumstances).


  Local authorities facing reductions in grant have indicated that the emergency planning service in their area will be reduced, eg vacant posts, less training, plans taking longer to complete. There was also no increase in funding to take account of pay and price increases. This also has an affect on service provision.

  The LGA believes that funding for emergency planning should have stability and predictability. The consultations on the amount of funding and its distribution should take place before the end of September each year. This would allow local authorities to consider the grant as part of their overall budget considerations. They will be able to make informed decisions on their "contribution" to the emergency planning budget.

  The LGA has submitted a bid for additional resources as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) 2002. A copy of the bid is attached for information.

  The LGA has been disappointed that no account was taken of the additional workloads for local authorities arising out of 11 September in this year's financial settlement. The LGA has estimated that this amounts to £12.32 million revenue and £5.72 million capital (included in overall CSR bid).


  The LGA has submitted detailed evidence on the Review and future legislation. The Review was first announced on 31 October 2000 and consultation on the Review was completed in October 2001. Taking into account the overwhelming support for new legislation the LGA would like to see a new Bill for emergency planning included in the next Queen's speech.

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