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Paper  4 -  25 January 2002 Meeting

ASSOCIATION OF HAMPSHIRE AND ISLE OF WIGHT LOCAL AUTHORITIES

25 January 2002

"STRONG LOCAL LEADERSHIP - QUALITY PUBLIC SERVICES": THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT WHITE PAPER

Report by the Policy Manager

SUMMARY

* The purpose of the discussion will be to air Members’ reactions to the White Paper, improve our understanding of its implications, and help formulate local policy for Member authorities and the Association.

* The Chairman will take issues notified in advance and then matters from the floor.

* John Haward, a local government officer seconded to DTLR, who formed part of the team which prepared the White Paper, will attend the meeting to help answer questions and report back.

BACKGROUND

1. Leading Members and Chief Executives met with the Secretary of State when he outlined his thinking last October. This was a regional consultative meeting chaired by Councillor K Thornber. Subsequently the Minister for Local Government attended this Association to discuss the contents of the White Paper.

2. The White Paper ("Strong Local Leadership - Quality Public Services") was published in December and sets out central Government’s policy on local government.

KEY MESSAGES FROM THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION

3. The white paper:

* Provides a significant bedrock of deregulation for all councils, including a commitment to reducing the number of plans councils are required to produce by 50%;

* Does include the Audit Commission’s four-categorisation performance assessment framework and a commitment to giving additional freedoms and flexibilities to high performing councils – but gives other councils the opportunity to seek additional freedoms through the local PSA process;

* Does represent some movement on local government finance – including the abolition of the council tax benefit subsidy limitation scheme, a renewed commitment to implementing the "prudential" capital regime and the establishment of a "high level group" to look at the balance of funding – but does not go as far as the association would have wanted on ring-fenced resources, with no target for reducing the proportion that is ring-fenced.

4. Significantly, the white paper does include some extremely positive statements about the role of local democracy, including a forward from the Prime Minister which concludes: "I want to see central and local government working together in a constructive partnership to deliver the high quality public services that local people have the right to expect." The white paper signals the government acceptance of the proposal in the LGA’s partnership for ambition paper that central and local government should agree a joint set of public service priorities through the central-local partnership.

5. The white paper includes many commitments to working with and consulting the LGA and others, including the Improvement and Development Agency and the Employers’ Organisation. A list of the commitments is attached. (The LGA is in discussion with DTLR on how this work should be managed). Discussions are also underway on the local services strand of the Spending Review 2002 which is important in relation to a number of aspects of the white paper.

NEXT STEPS FOR THE LGA

6. The LGA officers have provisionally identified five main areas to be pursued in our work following up the white paper:

* Negotiating the proposals in partnership for ambition, including the proposed shared priorities;

* Working with the Audit Commission on its performance assessment framework, and with the DTLR and other government departments on its application;

* Working across Whitehall to secure more widespread commitment to the deregulation agenda and the case for reducing the proportion of council resources which are ring-fenced;

* Pursuing the balance of funding debate, both in the proposed "high level group" and more widely;

* Pursuing the case for more investment in support for councils and participating in the review of the existing institutional arrangements.

NICK GOULDER
Policy Manager

Date: 14 January 2002
Annex: 1
Contact: Nick Goulder - 023 8068 8431, E-mail hiow@eastleigh.gov.uk

ANNEX

Local Government White Paper: next steps

Government commitment to work with LGA and others

* Government commitment to work with IDeA, local government and others to introduce an electronic register of electors. (2.17)
* Work with LGA and IDeA to develop best practice programme on operation of new governance arrangements. (2.22)
* Support efforts of IDeA and others to build capacity for political leadership. (2.22)
* Government commitment to working with local authorities the LGA and others to identify best practice on "key decisions" for FoI purposes. (2.29)
* Explore with LGA and other stakeholders how public bodies can be encouraged to be involved in local strategic partnerships. (2.43)
* Government commitment to encouraging local authority and business organisations to produce guidance on operation of Business Improvement Districts. (2.44)
* Government commitment to working with the LGA to help councils make greater use of current powers to manage public space. (2.52)
* Government commitment to work with local government on longer term communications strategy. (2.59)
* Definition of list of priorities for local government through the Central Local Partnership. (3.7)
* Consultation with LGA on national PSA for local government in the spending review. (3.13)
* Government commitment to working with local government and other stakeholders to put a performance assessment framework in place. (3.23)
* Negotiation of a revised intervention protocol. (3.44) And consultation alternatives forms of intervention. (3.48)
* Consultation on giving councils greater freedom to decide council tax discounts & exemptions. (4.19)
* Government commitment to reviewing scope for further plan reduction with the LGA. (4.33)
* Working jointly with the LGA to review red tape. (4.42)
* Response to request for views on options for support, capacity and training for local government and involvement in spending review process. (5.4)
* Examination with the LGA and others of the roles and capabilities of bodies providing support for capacity building in local government. (5.5)
* Work with IDeA, 4Ps and others to help improve local government procurement. (5.9)
* Commitment to working with the LGA and the Employers’ Organisation on a strategy to help local government retain and recruit staff. (5.16)
* Involvement in high level group, including Ministers, to review the balance of funding issue and look at reform options. (6.7)
* Commitment to work with local government on the introduction of a safety valve grant in 2004-5. (6.14)
* Response to consultation on provision of support for capital investment. (6.15)
* Involvement in developing proposals for funding response to floods and other emergencies. (6.16)
* Commitment to working with the LGA on guidance on public consultation on finance. (6.21)
* Revision of central-local partnership protocol. (7.8)

Last update: 16/01/2002
Author: Nick Goulder, Policy Manager

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