Ever found yourself dealing with employees from your council and having no idea what they actually do? Well, they could be carrying out one of 1,294 statutory duties that parliament imposes on local authorities. This week the Department for Communities and Local Government (DGLG) has announced it will perform a review of these duties, which in many cases are the result of centuries old Acts of Parliament and are no longer really necessary. Of course, conforming to them tends to cost taxpayers money.
Amazingly, DCLG acknowledge it is in no way comprehensive. Inevitably within such a huge list of duties some are necessary to perform essential functions, but surely there are many that are now surplus to requirements? DCLG are asking for your help to establish a comprehensive list of any statutory duties that are no longer necessary, which you can do here. As we outlined in our Unnecessary Jobs report last year, these statutory duties spawn whole new departments in council workforces too, such as diversity officers and climate change officers. Another problem is that councils respond differently to the same edicts – Birmingham had 28 Diversity Officers on the list while Leeds made do with just 11. Some had none whatsoever and shared the duties among existing staff.
This is an encouraging measure from the DCLG; let’s hope it removes many of the tiresome, onerous and ultimately expensive requirements Whitehall place on local authorities. Of course, this must be completed with clarity and transparency, as Glyn Gaskarth of the Local Government information Unit points out. He states “Every councillor must be able to find out, easily, exactly what the council is legally required to do. The public must be able to access such information in a clear and accessible format. We should constantly be asking ourselves if each regulation is necessary and if the law’s requirements can be met by less bureaucratic means.”