Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation Second Report


PART V: MISCELLANEOUS

Welfare Services

Introduction

220.  The Government wishes to minimise bureaucracy and provide a flexible funding framework for the provision of support services by local authorities. The new system will replace the current complex arrangements, and give local authorities a new rôle in the provision of support services.

The Powers

CLAUSE 64: GRANTS FOR WELFARE SERVICES

221.  Clause 64 enables Government to make a new specific grant available to local authorities towards any expenditure incurred by them in funding or providing welfare services. To ensure that the level and quality of support provision are consistent across local authorities, the clause includes the following powers for the Secretary of State in England and the National Assembly in Wales:

  • to determine the purpose of the grant (subsection 64(1));
  • to determine the amount of the grant (subsection 64(3));
  • to attach terms and conditions to the grant (subsection 64(5));
  • to provide guidance and directions to local authorities about how to use the grant (subsections 64(8) and (9)).

The purpose

222.  It is essential to set out the purpose of the grant in order to ensure that it is spent on those welfare services which enable vulnerable people to live independently in the community. The precise purpose of the grant has not been specified on the face of the Bill. Decisions on the exact scope of the grant will be determined by, among other things, information collected under the Transitional Housing Benefit Scheme, and future decisions on the precise rôle of Housing Benefit.

Terms and conditions

223.  Subsection 64(5) sets out the Secretary of State's or the Assembly's powers to attach terms and conditions to the grant including, under subsection 64(6), the power to make provision for the circumstances under which grant must be repaid.

224.  It will be important for central government to have the ability to attach conditions to the grant for the provision of support services for vulnerable people. Should the new funding framework be mismanaged or badly implemented those affected would the most vulnerable people in the community. To avoid such cases, central government requires some control over the manner in which the grant is used, and recourse to recoup the grant in certain circumstances.

225.  Subsections 64(8) and (9) set out the Secretary of State's and the Assembly's powers to provide guidance and directions to local authorities.

226.  While wishing to allow authorities to address the needs of their communities locally, the Government also wishes to be able to ensure that authorities approach the new grant in a manner which is broadly consistent and which takes account of best practice. The guidance will be generally used to establish broad principles.

CLAUSE 65: HOUSING BENEFIT

227.  Clause 65 makes amendments to the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 in order to provide that, in future, Housing Benefit will not meet charges in respect of payments for welfare services. It amends the Secretary of State's powers under that Act to make regulations about the provision of Housing Benefit.

228.  Use of regulations will allow this provision to be 'phased in'. Phased implementation will help to ensure that the proposals are implemented smoothly and that best practice could be shared and fed into future roll-out, especially with regard to the local authority process.

229.  This procedure will allow for Parliamentary scrutiny of the regulations under the arrangements in the 1992 Act. The Government believes this to provide an appropriate, and at the same time comprehensive, level of scrutiny.

Allowances and Pensions for Local Authority Members

CLAUSE 66: ALLOWANCES AND PENSIONS FOR LOCAL AUTHORITY MEMBERS

230.  Clause 66 gives the Secretary of State a power to make regulations on the payment of allowances and pensions to members of local authorities. The Government proposes to table amendments to this clause so that it more accurately reflects the Government's policy on modernising councillors' remuneration. This policy can be summarised as follows:

  • the abolition of attendance allowance,
  • a requirement that councils set up independent panels to make recommendations on allowances, and
  • enabling payments received by some councillors in executives to be treated as pensionable.

231.  It is envisaged that the amendments will place much of the provision that is needed on the face of the Bill. It is likely therefore that the scope of any remaining provision for delegated powers will be significantly narrower than the current clause 66.

232.  A supplementary memorandum will therefore be submitted to the Committee when the amendments are laid, setting out the details and reasons for the remaining delegated powers.


 
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