Supplementary memorandum by the Minister
for Local Government and the Regions (AP 01)
When I appeared before the Urban Affairs Select
Committee on Tuesday 4 December there were a number of points
raised that I said I would follow-up or answer in writing.
What assessment has been made of the total annual
cost of regional assemblies?
The Government will publish a White Paper on
regional governance in the New Year, which will include our proposals
for Elected Regional Assemblies. The White Paper will address
the costs of our proposals.
Regional chambers are existing bodies, which
have been established voluntarily by bodies representing the interests
of the region. Their running costs are a matter for the chambers
and their members. The Government has, however, allocated £500,000
this year to each chamber, and £1 million to the chambers
collectively, to help them establish a stronger strategic and
scrutiny role within their regions. The Government Offices are
holding regular monitoring meetings with the chambers. At the
end of each financial year, the £500,000 (and the collective
£1 million) will be subject to an external audit.
Department's evaluation of two-tier local governmentwhat
is the cost?
As my predecessors reported in their responses
to the Committee's earlier questions about the total cost of structural
reform, it would involve disproportionate cost to calculate the
overall costs and benefits of local government reorganisation.
However supplementary credit approvals issued between 1994-95
and 2000-01 were intended to assist new unitary authorities with
the funding of their set-up costs, until savings and receipts
could be realised. It was expected that in the longer term the
benefits would offset the costs.
The total amount of the Capital Reorganisation
Costs (SCAs issued) between 1994-95 to 2000-01 were £492.324
Local authorities reported the net current expenditure
on reorganisation (including expenditure funded by specific grant)
between 1993-94 to 2000-01 (outturn figures 1993-94 to 1998-99
budget figures 1999-2000 to 2000-01) as £131.037 million.
Costs of inspectionby the Audit Commission?
(OFSTED, Social Services Inspectorate etc)
The costs identified below are Inspectorate
costs only, and are representative of the major Inspectorates
who are working in the local government field. Sponsoring departments
generally fund their costs. However the costs of the BVIS and
District Audit is not all centrally fundedmuch of it is
recovered in fees, with RSG being boosted to cover local authority
Other bodies such as the Health and Safety Executive
(HSE) will have some involvement with local government, but figures
for this are not readily identifiable or available.
The figures do not include any element of the
costs to authorities of inspection, as no agreed or reliable figures
are available to us on this. Only District Audit and inspection
by the Best Value Inspection Service includes a fee element.
Audit Commission/Best Value Inspection Service
Audit Commission District Audit and Best Value
Inspection costs for the audit year 2001-02 are likely to be in
the region of £194 million. Best Value Inspection costs represent
a £44 million component of this figure which includes £21.7
million in direct grant paid by DTLR. However, District Audit
activity includes a lot of functions which would not normally
be termed "inspection". The Audit Commission will be
consulting on 2002-03 fees in March.
Social Services Inspectorate
In 2001-02 SSI inspections cost £5.2 million.
£4.5 million of this related to inspection of social services
functions that are the responsibility of local councils. The other
£0.7 million covered inspections of voluntary children's
homes, voluntary adoption agencies and secure accommodation in
support of the Secretary of State for Health's regulatory responsibilities
for these services. In addition SSI undertakes a range of other
activities with local councils with social services responsibilities
through eight regional offices at a cost of a further £5
million. This includes monitoring their performance in delivering
for social care, assessing and making judgements about their overall
performance and undertaking a range of other business on behalf
of the Department of Health.
HM Inspectorate of Constabulary
Spend in 2000-01 was £6,635,199. The equivalent
budget for 2001-02 is £7,776,000 although a change in Home
Office accounting practice this year means that the HMIC total
budget is £8,019,000.
Benefit Fraud Inspectorate
The total running costs for BFI in the last
three years is estimated at around £6 million per year.
HM Fire Service Inspectorate
£1,660,000 for the period 2001-02.
Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED)
The total direct cost (ie excluding overheads)
of LEA inspections in 2000-01 amounted to about £2.3 million.
The best value element is not costed separately but it represents
a small proportion. Of the total, almost half was paid to the
Audit Commission for their contribution to the inspections.
How much has staffing increased at the Audit Commission?
The following are the Audit Commission Staff
(including District Audit, Inspection and Central Directorates)
number increases for the period covering 30 November 1999 to 30
|Date||Staff No (Full-Time)
|30 November 1999||1,611
|30 November 2000||2,151
|30 November 2001||2,314
Who approves wording for local referenda ballot papers?
The wording of Mayoral referendums is prescribed in regulations.
The Electoral Commission was not consulted when this form of words
was first prescribed (2 April 2001, under the Local Authorities
(Conduct of Referendums) (England) Regulations 2001SI 2001/1298)
because the requirement that the Commission be consulted was not
then in force. In the light of the experience of the first referendums
we intend to consult the Electoral Commission on the prescribed
form of words, and bring forward amending regulations if necessary.
Section 104 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums
Act 2000 provides that any referendum question which is included
in primary or secondary legislation (such as the question to be
put in the Euro referendum) must be subject to consideration by
the Electoral Commission. The Commission is required to consider
the wording and publish a statement of their views on its intelligibility.
Total cost of local government modernisation in comparison
with NHS modernisation?
Local authorities are not required to provide returns to
the Department identifying separately the total costs and benefits
of modernisation. The Department has commissioned extensive research
to evaluate the medium and longer-term impacts of local government
modernisation policies. Further details can be seen at http://www.local.dtlr.gov.uk/research/index.htm.
This website provides access to research reports and findings
produced by the Department on all aspects of policies relating
to the Local Government Modernisation Agenda. Specifically, it
contains a report entitled, "The feasibility of evaluating
the impacts of the local government modernisation agenda",
which describes the Department's evaluation programme. There is
no comparative study of local government and NHS modernisation
costs and benefits.
When the number of Scottish Constituencies would be reduced
and where ministerial responsibility for this rests
This is a matter for the Secretary of State for Scotland.
A reduction in the number of Scottish constituencies is provided
for in the Scotland Act 1998. Section 86 of that Act removed the
requirement guaranteeing a minimum of 71 Scottish seats and requires
the Boundary Commission for Scotland in its next report to apply
the electoral quota for England. The effect of this would be likely
to reduce the number of Westminster seats from the current 72
to around 56 to 60. The Boundary Commission for Scotland commenced
its fifth periodical review in June 2001 and is required to report
to the Secretary of State for Scotland between December 2002 and
The Scotland Act also provides that the constituencies for
Holyrood are identical with Westminster with the exception of
Orkney and Shetland and fixes the ratio of constituency and top-up
MSPs. That means that the Boundary review will automatically lead
to a reduction in the size of the Scottish Parliament from its
present 129 members to around 102. However, on 6 November, the
Secretary of State for Scotland announced at Scottish Questions
her intention to launch a public consultation exercise on the
size of the Scottish Parliament.
10 January 2002