Joint Committee on Draft Civil Contingencies Bill Written Evidence

Memorandum from Exeter City Council

  Thank you for your letter dated 19 June 2003 inviting comments on the draft Civil Contingencies Bill by 11 September 2003. I am pleased to enclose my response.

  During earlier consultation I made clear that I believed district (city) councils should be given a duty to plan for major emergencies and receive subsequent funding. I am pleased to see from the proposed legislation that this is now to be partly endorsed. I believed then, that districts deserved to be funded for their contribution and effort in planning, exercising and training. The extent and depth of the seven specific duties contained in the proposed legislation convinces me that if there is no new money, the district element contained in the county allocation should be redistributed to districts. My reasoning is contained in the enclosed response.

  Other than information, we receive little or no support from the county council. Without any grant, Exeter City Council has chosen to employ its own, part-time emergency planning officer. In addition, we maintain a robust, functional emergency planning resource, a generic plan which is updated twice yearly and I remain confident of meeting the challenges posed when responding to any contingency and that might befall the city with, or without, the co-operation of the county council. I remain convinced that we should be funded for the contribution we make.

Philip Bostock

Chief Executive

18 July 2003

Summary of Consultation Questions


Q1.   Is the definition of emergency the right one? If not, in what ways should it be tightened or expanded to exclude certain classes of event or situation?

  1.  Although under section 1(3)(a)(ii) reference is made to contamination of land, water or air with fuel oils, there is no specific reference to oil pollution. Nor is there a corresponding duty for shire districts to plan for, train and conduct shoreline clean up. Ports and harbours have a statutory duty under these circumstances and we believe shire districts should be properly funded to carry out these functions effectively.

  2.  The definition is different than that used in the latest edition of Dealing with Disaster. A standard definition should be used throughout civil contingency terminology.

  3.  Should a threat to Parliament be included specifically?


Q2.   Do you agree that the obligations imposed on both Category 1 and 2 responders by or under the new framework will ensure operationally effective and financially efficient planning and response to emergencies at the local level? if not, how should these obligations be increased or reduced?

  1.  No.

  2.  We believe the Bill to be fundamentally flawed in this section. Shire districts are correctly placed as Category 1 Responders. However, we believe it is then irrational to affirm that shire counties will take full responsibility for local authority civil protection planning in their area. Shire counties lack the funding, staff, resources and local knowledge to provide an effective and acceptable service covering all seven aspects listed in the Bill ie Risk Assessment, Planning arrangements, Business Continuity Planning, Warning and informing, Sharing information, Co-operation and Promotion of Business Continuity Management.

  3.  Without proper funding, staffing and definitive legislation there remains a danger that some shire districts will continue to pay lip service to their civil contingency duties in the belief that shire counties successfully perform these functions on their behalf.

  4.  Although shire counties currently receive an element of grant aid based on the number of districts in their area, prudent districts nevertheless employ dedicated emergency planning officers funded from their own resources. Others combine these duties with those of another service. In the worst case, no emergency planning function exists. Yet, because emergencies demand a "bottom up" response starting in the district in which the emergency occurs, it is essential that a level of expertise should be established and maintained at shire district level.

  5.  Counties lack the resources, staffing and local expertise to effectively meet their proposed new responsibilities without the support of a district emergency planning officer or equivalent in post.

  6.  In addition, we believe there remains a danger local authorities may adopt a "blame culture", should financial or legal penalties be incurred after the recovery phase.

Q3.   Do you agree that the membership of Categories 1 and 2 is right? If not, which organisations should be added, moved or removed?

  Yes, but note our deep concerns expressed in answering Q2. Consideration should be given to including some voluntary organisations under Category 2.

Q4.   Do you agree that the Bill gives the Government the right balance of regulation making powers to meet its aims of consistency and flexibility? If not, please explain how the powers should be expanded or constrained


Q5.   Do you agree that consistent arrangements for multi-agency working should be established, through the creation of Local Resilience Forums? If not, how else should consistency be established?

  Yes. We strongly concur with and support this recommendation fully. The greater the information sharing, joint working and information sharing, the better. LA Autonomy should not be infringed. Consideration should be given to including the Armed Forces in Local Resilience Forums.

Q6.   Do you agree that the partial Regulatory Impact Assessment accurately reflects the costs and benefits of the Bill proposals? If not, how should it be changed?

  No comment.

Q7.   Do you agree that funding for Category 1 local authorities should be transferred from specific grant (Civil Defence Grant) to Revenue Support Grant? If not, why should specific grant be retained?

  No. There is far more accountability if it remains as specific grant. If funding is within Revenue Support Grant there is a danger that some Authorities will not use it specifically as funding towards Emergency Planning. However, as a shire district/city council we would accept funding from either Grant or through RSG. Whichever option is adopted should contain a mechanism that ensures funding is protected, used only for contingency planning and not diverted to other services in times of financial constraint.

Q8.   Do you agree that the level of funding to support the Bill is sufficient? If not, please explain why you believe it to be too high or too low.

  No. There is insufficient to accommodate both shire counties and their respective districts. As we have previously stated, we are committed to the belief that districts should receive funding towards the costs they already incur. If additional funding is not forthcoming we strongly support the view that the district element currently received by the county should be reallocated to respective districts. This would offset the not inconsiderable cost that some districts currently bear.

Q9.   Do you agree that performance should be audited through existing mechanisms? If not, what mechanism would you like to see established

  Without the establishment of a properly created Emergency Management Agency, performance monitoring should continue through existing mechanisms. However, monitoring should be both robust and effective.


Q10.   Do you agree with the role of Regional Nominated Co-ordinator? If not, who should take responsibility at the regional level, and with what responsibilities?

  Yes. We strongly support this appointment. The Regional Nominated Co-ordinator should act as the lynch pin between Central Government, emergency services, other agencies and local authorities and ensure a more effective distribution of information, advice and filtering mechanism in the event of a national emergency such as the Foot and Mouth and Fuel crises. Note our concern that LA should not lose their autonomy.

Q11.   Do you agree with the principle of applying special legislative measure on a regional basis? Please explain your answer

  We have no specific comment.


Q12.   Do you agree that the current emergency powers framework is outdated and needs to be replaced? If you do not think it should be replaced, please explain why.


Q13.   Do you agree that the circumstances in which special legislative measures may be taken should be widened from limited threats to public welfare to include threats to the environment, to the political, administrative and economic stability of the UK and to threats to its security resulting from war or terrorism? If not, how would you like to see the circumstances narrowed or extended?

  Yes. Please cross-refer to our response to Q1 with regard to pollution.

Q14.   Do you agree that the use of special legislative measures should be possible on a sub-UK basis? If not, please explain


Q15.   Do you agree that authority to declare that special legislative measures are necessary should remain with The Queen as Head of State, acting on the advice of Ministers? If not, who should it sit with?


Q16.   Do you agree that in the event of the process of making a Royal Proclamation would cause a delay which might result in significant damage or harm, a Secretary of State should be able to make the declaration in the place of The Queen as Head of State, acting on the advice of Ministers? If not, is delay acceptable or is there another alternative mechanism?

  See above.

Q17.   Do you agree that emergency regulations should be treated as primary legislation for the purposes of the Human Rights Act? If not, please explain why.


previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2003
Prepared 28 November 2003