3. The draft Bill, follows the publication in December
2001 of the White Paper Strong Local Leadership: Quality Public
Services. The Government's introduction to the consultation
paper on the draft Bill stated:
"Last December we published the White Paper
Strong Local Leadership: Quality Public Services which represents
a milestone in the history of the relationship between central
and local government. The proposals in the White Paper seek to
change the relationship between central and local government:
to establish a partnership for the delivery of high quality services
and to secure strong and responsive leadership by local government,
freed from unnecessary Government controls."
The proposal to change the balance between central
and local government is admirable and generally supported amongst
our witnesses. Unfortunately, our evidence suggested that the
draft Bill fails to fulfil this commitment. Professor Gerry Stoker
"It is a good starting point but it is not
enough. I do not know anyone in the local government or the academic
community who would describe themselves as even moderately excited
by this draft Bill. It is not going to set the world on fire in
terms of a change in the way in which central/local relations
are constructed or the way in which local government should work."
"I do not think the Bill as it stands is
going to be the Bill that we all look back at and say 'that was
the Bill that regenerated local democracy or local government.'"
4. We have also received evidence of concern from
local authorities that central Government is concentrating on
"establishing a national framework of standards and accountability"
at a much faster rate than "devolution to local councils
to encourage diversity and creativity."
We heard from the Local Government Association that:
"The thrust of the Bill is I think welcome
in the fact that it is a step in the right direction but from
local government's point of view the challenge is to give the
freedoms and the powers and the responsibilities to local government
and by doing so to release the energy and innovation amongst those
that work in local government. Therefore, we have seen so far,
I think, some of the freedoms and flexibilities but probably fewer
than we have seen progress on things like the Comprehensive Performance
5. The White Paper on which this Bill is based,
raised considerable expectation about a change in the relations
between central and local government. On the whole the draft Bill
appears to be far from a radical overhaul and in many cases gives
more powers to the Secretary of State. The way in which it is
drafted could enmesh local authorities in more regulation. We
are furthermore concerned that aspects of the Bill centralise
powers unnecessarily. We strongly believe that if local government
is going to regain the public respect and authority it once enjoyed,
the Government must be prepared to trust it much more.
6. As with the Local Government Act 2000, our witnesses
were concerned about the level of regulation proposed. The Royal
Institution of Chartered Surveyors stated:
"We are alarmed however at the quantity of
secondary legislation to be initiated by these measures. We calculate
there are over 50 regulations or order enabling powers that will
need to be made as a result of the Bill."
There was also a concern about the amount of power
to be concentrated in the Secretary of State as a result. Westminister
City Council's memorandum concluded,
"The City Council is concerned that the Secretary
of State will be given new and wide ranging powers under the draft
Many of our witnesses stressed that it would be hard
to judge the likely effects of many measures within the Bill without
sight of the regulations and stressed the importance of the draft
regulations being available to Parliamentarians when the final
Bill is considered.
Mr Raynsford made a commitment to provide draft regulations (or
a description of the principles underpinning regulations) on all
the "important" clauses within the Bill, when it reaches
the Committee Stage.
We recommend that the volume of regulation should be reduced.
Instead principles should be clearly articulated on the face of
the Bill and be implemented through voluntary guidance and local
discretion. Where regulations are necessary, draft regulations
should be available for consideration alongside the Bill at the
1 Paragraph 1, Local Government Bill-Consultation
on legislation, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, June
Foreword, Strong Local Leadership: Quality Public Services,
DTLR, December 2001, CM5327 Back
Foreword, Strong Local Leadership: Quality Public Services Back
For example, Qq169 and 269 Back