London Local Authorities Bill [HL]
Tuesday 18 February 2003
400. LORD ELTON: What are the grounds?
(Mrs McGregor) There are various functions
of the authority which are taken into account in the overall assessment
of the authorities assessment. This is undertaken by the Audit
Commission on behalf of the Secretary of State. The Secretary
of State can accept the recommendations of the Audit Commission,
or not; but what he cannot do is adjust the recommendations of
the Audit Commission in deciding what flexibility an authority
401. LORD TORDOFF: How do you answer Mr Lewis's points
that this ranking may be totally irrelevant to the level of dog
fouling or litter?
(Mr Kerrigan) Basically our policy position
is that the level of fines issued on a yearly basis are very small.
We collect money from 430 authorities who return the money to
the Secretary of State at present. Our earnings on an annual basis
are approximately from 30 authorities who issue fines on dog fouling
offences. We are concerned that with the London Local Authority
Bill the local authority have too much freedom to spend the money
i.e. on amenities and areas; whereas we are looking at spending
it on dog fouling functions. All local authorities say they have
to spend their money on litter collection and dog fouling functions.
Then they look to see the high performing authorities. At the
moment the way we assess high performing authorities is using
the Comprehensive Performance Assessment. When the Secretary of
State comes to make regulations he will have an opportunity to
consult on extending that to include the possibility of the new
best value performance indicator, which will subsequently look
at how good a local authority is at its litter and dog fouling
functions. Therefore the high performing authorities will be those
who can prove year after year that they can achieve their statutory
functions, rather than be able to receive the money from issued
402. CHAIRMAN: I can understand the Government's
objection to ring-fencing things, but this seems to be the reverse
(Mr Kerrigan) As I explained, very few authorities
issue any fines for litter and dog fouling, and it is creating
quite a large problem. Approximately £450 million are a direct
cost of cleaning litter for local authorities. Indirect costs
are bigger year on year, and we must address this problem. One
way of doing this is by removing the aspect of the Environmental
Protection Act 1990 giving money to the Secretary of State. We
are actually allowing local authorities to keep it for litter
and dog fouling. We have actually acknowledged the significance
of allowing the high performing authority to have more freedom
of spending money. The definition of a high performing authority
is yet to be agreed on. Mr Raynsford in his speech mentioned that
the Comprehensive Performance Assessment would be used to allow
local authorities to spend money on greater freedoms. However,
when the Secretary of State writes the regulations she will have
an opportunity to act on that.
403. LORD ELTON: I find it extraordinary that the
ability to spend the proceeds of fines of dog fouling and litter
is a carrot to local authorities to encourage them to become high
performing local authorities. The rewards must be minimal. I am
aware that this is becoming such an important issue for your Department.
(Mrs McGregor) Dog fouling and litter is a
small amount of money but the encouragement needs to be there
for authorities to use that money to take a more pro-active role.
404. Presumably the more freedom they have to spend
it the more eager they will be to get it and that will encourage
(Mr Kerrigan) I agree with what you are saying.
That is something happening in ten years' time. For example, at
the moment there are only 430 authorities. Westminster itself
serves about two-thirds of the total amount that we get on an
annual basis. They are by far the most pro-active in their issuing
of litter fines, but that is a unique case. The majority of authorities
do not do this at all.
405. LORD ELTON: What are local authorities for if
not to manage the amenities as they think best? Surely the State
only intervenes when things go drastically wrong or they can be
encouraged to do drastically better? I remain to be convinced
that these restrictions will have that effect.
406. CHAIRMAN: To add to what has been said about
the environment, "the amenity" does not cover the same
ground and a little bit more. If the local authority want to spend
money on a sports hall, for instance, rather than a patch of grass
what is wrong with that? "The amenity" are the words
that they want to use.
(Mrs McGregor) This package of measures in
terms of dog fouling and litter is part of a wider measure of
flexibility offered to high performance authorities. It is a small
part but it is actually a much wider package.
407. LORD ELTON: Is it a significant part? Can you
(Mrs McGregor) In terms of monetary value
it is quite small. It is an area of the government's policy to
give more freedom and flexibility to all authorities, and this
is one small part of that.
408. LORD TORDOFF: With respect, not to all authorities,
but high performing authorities?
(Mrs McGregor) Not necessarily. In this case,
even those authorities in the lower end, the poorer authorities,
are to be, firstly, allowed to keep the income from dog fouling
and litter penalties; and, secondly, to be able to use it for
purposes in relation to the local environment. It is only good
authorities, according to the CPA, that should be allowed to spend
409. CHAIRMAN: Can I come back to the parking - which
is vast amounts of money we are talking about there. If we are
going to allow the high performing authorities the discretion
over the extra benefits on parking, that is a very, very considerable
carrot for them to be a high performing authority. I would not
have thought that this one made much difference. Does anybody
else have anything to add?
(Mr Jones) I am just wondering what the difference
is in character of London local authorities compared with the
other local authorities, my Lords. It is open to Parliament, if
they choose, to amend clause 116 if they do not consider that
satisfactory. There are already means under the scrutiny of the
Local Government Bill to make changes should they not consider
that clause appropriate. I am not aware, at least we have not
yet so far been made aware, of any significant differences between
the London Local Authorities and the other local authorities within
England and Wales which justify a difference on this issue.
410. LORD TORDOFF: I think we have now got to the
heart of this matter.
411. MR SAUNDERS: There is one point I would like
to clear up. Perhaps I can ask Mr Lewis a question. The clause,
that is to say Clause 27(1) as amended, seems to me, unless I
am reading it wrongly, to cut out the offences relating to litter
and dog fouling and it just puts in place of them offences under
Clause 26. It seems to me that a lot of this discussion has been
a bit by the way because the clause in the Bill is not going to
deal with dog fouling and littering whereas 116 of the Local Government
Bill is, so the two could be having different regimes for different
412. MR LEWIS: I think we need to look at ----
413. MR SAUNDERS: Have you put it in somewhere else?
414. MR LEWIS: Clause 29A in the Additions Apart,
page 16. That includes specific provision about dog fouling and
littering and applies certain provisions of 27, 28 and 29.
415. MR SAUNDERS: Including the application in accordance
with your formulation. So it is not that the Office of the Deputy
Prime Minister and DEFRA object to the whole of these clauses,
it is just really that they object to 29A.
416. MR LEWIS: That is what the reports say, absolutely
417. MR SAUNDERS: When it was first discussed it
was all the clauses.
418. MR LEWIS: I see. Maybe it is for the representatives
to say but I think the substance of their objection really is
that if they had their way they would ask for 29A to be struck
out from the Bill and would be happy for the clauses to proceed
in relation to the other offences.
419. MR SAUNDERS: As far as Clause 26 is concerned
that is all right.