Economic, social and environmental
211. As we noted in the first paragraph of this report,
in the original White Paper "Modern Local Government: In
Touch with the People" the Government said that it would
introduce legislation to place on councils a duty to promote the
economic, social and environmental well-being (ESEWB) of their
areas and to strengthen councils' powers to enter into partnerships.
The effect of such a provision would be to provide "an overall
framework within which councils must perform all their existing
212. The draft Local Government (Organisation and
Standards) Bill, in its present form, does not include any ESEWB
provisions, though the accompanying White Paper promises "such
other legislation as is necessary to carry through the rest of
the White Paper agenda", including the ESEWB duty.
213. Many witnesses thought that the current draft
bill was a suitable legislative vehicle, to which the ESEWB duty
should be added.. The LGA entered such a plea when they gave evidence
to us. They thought that the new duty would provide a necessary
supporting legislative base for the sort of community leadership
which the current draft bill sets out to promote. It was also
necessary to provide greater flexibility in what councils could
do. "The ultra vires doctrine has been rigidly applied
and a number of decisions over the last few years have underlined
that in effect councils can only do that which they are permitted
to do by statute".
The LGA drew our notice to the fact that the Greater London Authority
Bill currently before parliament included such a general power.
The Local Government Information Unit and many other witnesses
shared the view that the ESEWB duty should be included in the
Indeed, no-one offered a contrary view.
214. The case has a compelling logic about it. As
Professor Stewart wrote, "New political structures should
be related to new roles. Rather than structures precede roles,
they should follow from the roles".
215. The Government were reluctant to commit themselves
on whether or not the power would be included in this draft bill.
The Minister in her replies to us indicated that they were still
considering how the powers would "fit into the legislative
framework for local government".
She also referred to business management reasons for not increasing
the size of bills.
216. Given the views expressed, the Committee believe
that the Government should bring forward provisions relating to
the ESEWB duty in the context of the bill currently proposed,
without pre-empting debate by Parliament as to whether the provision
should be in the form of power or duty, or as to any provision
necessary to avoid duplication of functions. They note that in
the Greater London Authority Bill only three clauses were required
to introduce this dutyone to confer the duty, one to limit
it, and one to provide for consultation in the exercise of it.
It would be difficult to argue, therefore, that such a provision
should be excluded from the present draft for reasons of business
management and parliamentary time. We recommend that the Government
take this opportunity to add to the bill the legislative provisions
necessary to impose on councils a duty, or give them the power,
to promote the economic, social and environmental well-being of