Memorandum submitted by the Local Government
Association (15 February 2002)
1. The Local Government Association (LGA)
is the national voice for local communities, speaking for nearly
500 local authorities in England and Wales representing over 50
million people and spending £65 billion a year on local services.
It represents all individual authorities in England and Wales
and the diverse communities they serve. This includes the 178
authorities and fire and civil defence authorities in receipt
of Civil Defence Grant in England and Wales.
2. The Association welcomes the opportunity
to give written evidence to the Committee's enquiry. The events
of 11 September 2001 serve as a reminder for the need for effective
planning and preparedness by public authorities to deal with the
threat of terrorism. Our evidence responds to those issues raised
by the Committee which are relevant to the role and contribution
of local government and emergency planning.
3. The Local Government Association (LGA)
welcomes the commitment of government to changes in the legislative
basis for emergency planning in England and Wales. The LGA has,
for a number of years, advocated the introduction of legislation
to put emergency planning by local authorities onto a clear statutory
basis, based on the need to plan for peacetime emergencies rather
than for Civil Defence.
4. The LGA would endorse the proposals for
new legislation outlined in the discussion document "The
Future of Emergency Planning in England Wales" as follows:
New legislation to cover county councils,
shire district councils, unitary authorities including metropolitan
districts and London boroughs and all purpose authorities.
Local authorities to be expected
to perform a community leadership role in developing emergency
planning arrangements with partner agencies.
The duty to share in partnership
arrangements to fall on the appropriate bodies including local
authorities, emergency services, health authorities, Environment
Agency, privatised utilities, transport operators and government
5. The purpose of the new legislation would
(a) to provide local authorities with the
to undertake hazard assessments
which identify the main hazards in their areas; and
to prepare, or co-operate in
the preparation of, emergency plans which address and cover those
(b) to require local authorities to take
the initiative in bringing together partner agencies to prepare
(c) to require partner agencies to co-operate
in the preparation of plans;
(d) to ensure that all local authority chief
executives and departments attach a proper priority to the preparation
and maintenance of plans, to training staff and exercising those
plans, and to responding effectively to disasters;
(e) to provide a statutory basis for the
preparation of national guidance which will:
help local authorities fulfil
support the development of performance
help achieve greater consistency
in emergency planning practice across the county.
6. The LGA is not convinced that legislation
should specify duties in respect of prevention. This would lead
to unrealistic expectations and probably litigation. Local authorities
are, however, involved in mitigation of the effects of an emergency.
Any role in the prevention of disasters is also likely to require
new powers, and raises the question of the role of local authorities
vis-á-vis major regulators in the transport, industrial,
commercial and food sectors, as well as the central government
and its executive agencies.
7. The LGA also believes that a general
duty of response is too difficult to define. Local authorities
are not set up as emergency services and including this in legislation
might also lead to unreal expectations.
8. The LGA feels that there may be some
value in incorporating powers for local authorities to lead or
direct recovery operations and the recovery phase in the aftermath
of a disaster. This would be to clarify the responsibilities and
duties of agencies when the response phase is concluded and/or
the emergency services involvement winds-down.
9. The LGA would, however, wish to see the
duties conferred under the new legislation applied to all types
of authorities (including Fire authorities and FCDAs) recognising
the range of responsibilities each discharges including, for example
shire district's, environmental health and housing functions.
10. The LGA would also wish to see the duty
applied to Combined Fire Authorities and Fire and Civil Defence
Authorities. It is noted that, in the past, Government has not
felt it appropriate to include them in the definition of local
authorities for some non-fire legislation (such as the Local Government
Act 2000). This has, on occasion, resulted in duties and powers
being given to county fire services that other categories of fire
authority did not enjoy.
11. The primary legislation would not benefit
by containing too many provisions in respect of the detail of
the system. The LGA suggests that the primary legislation should
be an enabling Act, analogous to the Health and Safety at Work
Act 1974, under which Regulations may be made from time to time
to address particular issues.
12. This would allow for the introduction
of, for example, European-derived civil protection measures in
a manner compatible with the broader emergency planning system.
The primary legislation should be used to bring the UK into line
with the requirements of Europe.
13. The LGA suggests that, should this approach
be adopted, there would be no need for separate legislation in
respect of wartime planning, which could be the subject of regulations
particular to that scenario, which could be amended in the light
of changing assessments of risk.
14. The ability to deal with particular
subject areas in respect of emergency planning and response by
means of statutory instruments could be exploited, where there
was a demonstrable need, to specify who should be responsible
for dealing with particular types of emergency. In this context,
the responsibilities of local authorities, and others, in dealing
with maritime pollution or veterinary emergencies, etc, and associated
funding and technical issues, might be clarified.
15. The definition of "emergency planning"
needs to be explicit. The LGA believes that the definition contained
in the Home Office publication "Dealing with Disaster"
forms an appropriate starting point:
"In the context of civil protection a useful
working definition of a disaster is any event (happening with
or without warning) causing or threatening death or injury, damage
to property or to the environment or disruption to the community,
which because of the scale of its effects cannot be dealt with
by the emergency services and local authorities as part of their
[Dealing with Disaster, 3rd edition, Home Office
2000. paragraph 1.3 (Web version)]
16. Such a definition would include the
full range of emergencies to which local government has been expected
to respond in recent yearsfuel crises, foot and mouth,
Y2K etc. Emergency planning, by extension, is the process by which
plans are made for the response to a disaster.
17. The LGA does not believe that the legislation
should impose a duty in respect of "hazard assessment".
This term has a number of interpretations depending on context,
some of which are highly technical. A simple duty to plan for
"reasonably foreseeable" disasters should be sufficient.
18. The current funding for emergency planning
is approximately £19 million to which local authorities add
discretionary expenditure of £9.9 million (from their SSA
allocation). However, this is the minimum amount of additional
funding from local authorities from initial calculations. The
real cost, for all local authorities, will be much greater than
this figure. After much debate it now appears that the Government
will continue to fund emergency planning by providing a similar
amount of grant aid for the financial year 2002-2003.
19. However, the LGA believes that emergency
planning is seriously underfunded and has submitted a bid for
additional funding of £26.76 million revenue and £17.08
million capital for England only. These figures take account of
work undertaken during, and since the series of major emergencies
including flooding, fuel crisis, foot and mouth, etc together
with the preparations for the Millennium. The public increasingly
expect local authorities to play a leading role in dealing promptly
and effectively with these type of crises. The events of 11 September
2001 added significantly to the workloads of local authorities
in answering public and press enquiries, preparing CBRN protocols
and reviewing their emergency plans. Additional information has
been required by Government from local authorities.
20. All chief executives are to receive
a letter requesting information for the Vital Human Services Working
21. Local authorities usually co-ordinate
the preparation of appropriate emergency plans, arranging training
22. In most areas multi-agency groups have
been established at strategic and tactical level. Military liaison
officers are involved in all appropriate groups in each local
23. The role of local authorities in an
emergency is to support the emergency services by providing personnel,
premises, plant, equipment, expertise etc. This support role is
in the immediate response phase. However, in some types of emergency
the local authority co-ordinate the response eg severe weather
emergencies such as flooding.
24. The local authorities support the emergency
services during the immediate response phase which may be over
a short time span. However, when this phase is complete the local
authority will then be responsible for co-ordinating the recovery
phase which may be much more protracted (months or years).
25. The liaison arrangements with the Military
are generally good. For instance, local authorities adjacent Aldermaston
an excellent working relationship;
inclusive integrated planning;
26. The LGA support this type of working
relationship with the Military and would encourage this in all
local authority areas.
27. The support received by local authorities
from the armed forces in many emergencies has been invaluable.
Local authorities and affected communities have found the assistance
during the floods invaluable.
28. Local authorities, however, consider
that there should be no charge for this assistance as the personnel,
equipment and resources are paid for out of public money. Local
authorities do not receive any Government assistance for the costs
of their response to emergencies until they reach their "Bellwin"
thresholds which can be around £1 million for larger authorities.
Only 85 per cent of the costs above these thresholds are reimbursed
29. Local authorities and other response
agencies work within the agreed command structure: Strategy (Gold);
Tactics (Silver) and Operations (Bronze).
30. The standard of emergency controls varies
across the country. The LGA consider that there should be purpose
built multi agency controls in all police authority areas that
can be used in any emergency eg foot and mouth, without having
to develop these facilities during such emergencies.
31. The emergency services are currently
working towards replacing their radio communications. There should
be compatible facilities available for all response agencies.
32. Extensive joint training and exercise
programmes are developed by the multi agency groups in each local
33. The Ministry of Defence is now seeking
to involve local authorities in joint exercises. This is welcomed
by the LGA.
34. There is a need for a national warning
system for warning the public in any emergency. This would require
a major initiative and investment. The work of the National Steering
Committee on Public Warning is supported by the LGA. The work
of this Committee in developing a video to educate school children
near to hazardous sites under the Control of Major Accident Hazards
Regulations should be developed into a countrywide public education
35. The recent decisions by the police not
to guarantee to inform the public needs to be reviewed.
36. The concept of the lead Government department
needs to be clarified following the changes in Deptal responsibilities
last year. There should be of full list of emergency responsibilities
of each Government department.
37. It is understood that "Dealing
with Disaster" is being reviewed and revised. This includes
information of the "Lead Government Department".
38. The LGA should be involved, as should
the Military and other response agencies, to ensure that the revised
document is comprehensive.
39. It is hoped that the new Civil Contingency
Secretariat will co-ordinate Government response to any emergency
to provide a clear line of communication for the local response
40. The LGA is also concerned about the
role of Regional Government offices in an emergency and would
wish to be involved in the discussions in this area.
41. There is a need to consider all threats
including international software and hardware corruption. IT and
communications should be hardened against these threats.
42. There has been additional work for local
authorities since 11 September 2001. For example, all chief executives
will be asked to provide information on their emergency planning
arrangements by the Vital Human Services Working Group. Local
authorities have been heavily involved in plans for mass casualties,
evacuation, etc and reviewing all major incident plans. There
has also been an increase in public and media enquiries and the
need for additional training and exercises.
43. This additional work adds to increasing
demands placed on the service following other major emergencies
eg floods, fuel crises, foot and mouth etc. At the same time resources
for emergency planning have not been increased (2002-2003 the
service will have to absorb increased pay and price costs). Therefore,
unless resources are increased to meet demand other emergency
planning work will suffer to the detriment of public safety.