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Schedule 2(1) provides that the councils that will be relevant councils in Bedfordshire and Cheshire from 1 April 2009 must establish a joint committee in accordance with the Police Authority Regulations 2008that is SI 2008/630within 14 days of Schedule 2 to the public bodies order coming into force.
Schedule 2(2) provides that each joint committee must appoint representatives of the new single-tier councils who will become members of the police authority for that area from 1 April 2009. Those appointments must be made in accordance with the requirements of the police regulations 2008. Schedule 2(3) makes provision about the status of the representatives during the transitional period.
I am sure that noble Lords agree that these are wholly sensible provisions. They have certainly been supported by the stakeholders. The provisions that we are considering have been framed with regard to the contributions and comments received from stakeholders during dialogue on the public bodies order. We have worked closely with stakeholders in Bedfordshire and Cheshirenot only through our regular update meetings with chief executives from the restructuring councils; I am grateful to them for their work on this. We have invited comments on various drafts of the order, but we also wrote to affected councils and bodies, as well as local MPs, outlining the proposed changes and inviting comments.
In total, we received eight responses to our soundings exercise: two responses about the membership of the Cheshire fire authority and six about the membership of Bedfordshire and Cheshire police authorities. Both
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With that support and with the necessity that requires the order, I hope that noble Lords will support it. It is clear that it amends the areas and membership of public bodies consequential on the restructuring orders for Bedfordshire and Cheshire that the House agreed in 2008. As I said, these are transparent and sensible provisions which are widely supported by local stakeholders. I commend the order to the House.
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, I thank the Minister for explaining the order. She will know our view that services are important, rather than whether an authority is unitary or two-tier. The future lies in local area agreements between districts, counties and different sorts of organisations, such as health authorities and police authorities. We believe that we should allow local authority structures to grow naturally and organically. That, we feel, is the way to ensure that people receive better services. We have pointed out the high risk that arises in any restructuring in local government and our deep scepticism that the changes leading to the order will result in improved services for people in their local areas, which is what this ought to be all about.
I have one question for the Minister. Is she satisfied that the depth of consultation on restructuring with the fire and rescue authorities and the police authorities is at least as comprehensive as that conducted with the respective local authorities, or is the suck-it-and-see approach to legislating, exemplified by the local government restructuring, really as wasteful, and for the fire and rescue and police services as dangerous, as it seems to us?
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister. I agree about the common sense of the order, and I particularly take the point about the timing to enable new members to take part in budget discussions.
Try as I might, I could find few comments on the order save but a couple. The Minister said that there had been five supportive responses from the Bedfordshire and Cheshire police authorities and one that was neutral. I understand that there has been controversy as to how the places on the policy authority should be allocated between the constituent authorities. I hope, as do colleagues in the area, that this can be resolved by agreeing that representation should be proportionate to population.
There was another common sense comment about how cumbersome it would be to name all four local authorities shared by the Cheshire Constabulary if it has to be done too often. Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester, Halton and Warrington is a bit of a mouthful, and it would be useful if, in time, the emergency services could simply be known as Cheshire. It occurred to me when the Minister referred to Cheshire and Bedfordshire that we are already using almost historical titles. I am sure that we will go on doing so because that is common sense; that is our understanding of the geography. However, whatever the history leading to the creation of these new unitaries, we wish the authorities well.
Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lords opposite for their responses. I absolutely agree with the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, that this is and always has been about improving services. However, difficult though restructuring always is, the outcome will be better services in those areas. I pay tribute to all the local authorities that have worked so hard over the past year to make that possible.
The noble Lord asked about consultation with the fire and rescue authorities and the police authorities. He may be referring to the fact that it was not a full 12-week consultation. I referred to the work that had gone on with stakeholders, and I can tell him that we invited comments within a shortened timeframe because it was considered that there had already been lengthy consultation with stakeholders, who had the opportunity to comment on numerous drafts of the public bodies order and the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act. This order is a consequential amendment to that and so does not require us to consult fully on the proposed changes to the membership of public bodies. I assure him, however, that the outcome suggests that people have been well satisfied with the nature of the consultations.
As always the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, picks up on important points. There has been some discussion in Bedfordshire about the membership and composition of the joint selection committee of the police authority. In accordance with the Police Authority Regulations 2008, councils wrote to the Home Secretary asking her to consider and determine the relative levels of representation between Bedford Borough Council and Central Bedfordshire Council. That matter is for the Home Office and is still under consideration. The police authority of Cheshire will be known as the Cheshire Police Authority and the fire and rescue authority as the Cheshire Fire and Rescue Authority, which is a sensible outcome.
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