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The Earl of Caithness: I purposely did not speak to that amendment because I think that the two issues are distinct although there is a common thread. I would like to tackle my particular point separately.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: Does what the noble Lord said about the funding mean that the large, generous amounts of money which the Chancellor has told local government it is to receive to assist with its responsibilities in relation to schools, roads and social services will be reduced by the figure which must be spent on wardens and other functions which have to be undertaken because of this Bill? Will that have to be subtracted? Local councils would like to know that. Is the cost of this new responsibility included?
Lord Whitty: Members of the Committee will be aware that the whole issue of local authority finance is subject to a major review at present. We are talking of a period beyond the current review when these access rights will come into play. I cannot answer the noble Baroness absolutely. I may have inadvertently referred to costs being four to five times the figure in the regulatory impact assessment. However, what I was trying to convey was that we would provide four to five times that figure in order to carry out the access provisions. That would be additional money to the other responsibilties for local authorities. What I cannot be absolutely clear about is whether we will
Lord Willoughby de Broke: Will the noble Lord answer the point or agree with the point made by my noble friend Lord Roberts about the possible need for wardens to control or to monitor night access? Is that something the noble Lord has thought about or something he may want to answer later? Is it something that ought to be considered?
Lord Whitty: Unlike certain noble Lords, the Government have always assumed that access means 24-hour access, as it does in relation to access land in general at present. We have always assumed that there will be night access. Our estimates are based on the inclusion of night access, as are estimates from the Local Government Association.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I thank the Minister for his reply and I thank him for spelling out that the Government agree with the LGA figure and that there will be additional money for some of the other work to be carried out, for example, through the agencies. That is all very helpful.
The Minister says that there might be a pot. I am concerned that it should not be yet another bidding round for local authorities; that it should be their money as of right in whichever way the Government decide to give it to them. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, about the fact that, on the whole, we do not like ring-fenced funds. Local authorities are well able to make their own decisions. We do not see this as a fight between the conservation bodies and agencies. I should remind the Committee of my interest as a Somerset county councillor. But the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, impugn a motive which simply does not exist. We do not want to take the money away. We want a recognition that local government is paid for what it has to do.
The Minister has reassured me that the Government intend to put sufficient financing behind Part I. If he is able to say anything more at a later stage about the way in which his department thinks that that might be delivered, that would be extremely helpful. But in the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
I listened with great care to the last debate that we had and in particular, to what the Minister said. I was very pleased to hear that the local authorities are now awash with funds and that he believes there is a need for wardens. But there has been a need for wardens in the past. The local authorities have had the finance available to them, but they have not chosen to use it in order to supply wardens where there have been access agreements.
My noble friend Lord Peel gave the example of the Yorkshire Dales where an agreement had been entered into and, over time, other spending had taken priority for the local authority. If the funds which we discussed on the last amendment are not to be ring-fenced, there will be the usual local government argy-bargy which has been going on for years about how it is to spend its finance. My great fear is that although there is plenty of good intention, there is very little good action.
I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, has much greater experience of local government than I. But she will have to compete against other demands in Somerset if she is to secure funds for wardens. Over time, it is unfortunately the non-statutory areas of local government which are squeezed and which traditionally have been squeezed. We have seen that in Surrey and elsewhere. That is what gives me the great concern that I have about the word "may" in line 1 of Clause 18. I believe that that should be "shall". There should be a firm duty on the access authority or the local authority to provide a wardening service.
How that wardening service is then constructed and made up is a matter for the local and access authorities and it will vary from area to area. It occurred to me that those authorities could use some initiative in this regard. The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, referred to voluntary wardens. The employees of the landowners or farmers might take on, with a little bit of help from the access authority, that extra work.
I can remember when I started my career in farming being irritated by some obstruction in the middle of the field which I was told I could not plough. I had to go round it. It would have made a lot more sense had I been told the full value of that particular obstruction; that other people wanted to come to see that obstruction; access was to be given to it; and those were the reasons why. I should have then understood the situation far more clearly and it would not have been such an irritation to me. I am sure that there are many small areas in which local people, living on the land, could be used in a wardening type of service for some extra finance, which would be of extra benefit in the rural areas. It would enhance their knowledge of the countryside and they are the best people to transmit that knowledge to those who wish to make use of those provisions.
However, I return to the fundamental point. It is absolutely right that there should be a wardening service. The noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, said that there is a vital role for those wardens
Lord Northbourne: I support the noble Earl's amendment. The difficulty about a power rather than an obligation is that it leads to very wide variations between local authorities in the degree to which the power is implemented. From what I see in other contexts, central government have remarkably little ability to coerce local authorities into performing their optional functions. I have in mind the provision of youth services where the provision varies between the best and worst authority--£8 per head as against £236 per head. Therefore, wide variation between local authorities is a serious risk.
I am prepared to bet that the Minister will not like the idea of this amendment. However, I draw his attention to one other factor. I am informed that in response to a scheme relating to rights of way in north Hampshire and West Sussex, the commissioner for local administration, in reply to complaint No. 1340H of 7th December 1976 questioned whether a highway authority could justify putting resources into discretionary work rather than using those resources for its statutory responsibilities.
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