Mar 2011 10

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.”

Chris is a Policy Analyst at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, focussing on local government spending. His work in this area includes papers on trade union funding and our Town Hall Rich List.

  • Joepublic

    Both our District Council and our County Council are Tory, Tory.
    Both waste money like theres no tomorrow ( £9 mill on a ‘Consultants’ to tell them they couldn’t build a road in a certain location) but they have such a large group we can’t get rid of them.
    Contracts done in house with no evidence of negotiation – all sweetheart deals, the only plus is for the directors of the firms who’s shares keep heading North whilst the services dry up

  • Daniel Rooney

    I expect you have reviewed the Freedom of Info on police pay, retiremen, pension and benefits available on the web.
    And: pls send along congrtulations and thanks to Mr. Kevin Pearsn for his very unselfish act of moderating his pay packet on behalf of all tax-payers.

  • the beyond

    There are many aspirational statutory obligations, but state agencies ought, surely, to prioritise other statutory obligations as necessary, and a principal one would be legal propiety, and legal accuracy and precision in correspondence.

    Far too many anecdotal reports suggest that the influx of private contractors into state agency operations bring unsavoury practices with them.

    For example
    “skirting renunciation”
    renunciation is one of the means by which a liability or contract can be released – in contrast to plain unequivocal release, a “wall of renunciation” need not have any individual “brick” – an individual act or statement, be unambiguous
    “renunciation” does need
    1. objective evincement of the intention to terminate
    2. subjective conviction by the recipient that the termination is clear and absolute

    “skirting” as in skirting the edge of a frozen pond – until foot plunges into cold water, “renunciation” has not happened
    this is a dubious & toxic tactic in the private sector – one might skirt renunciation to prompt another party to terminate, in order to later claim that termination to be premature, and launch proceedings on this basis

    dubious & toxic in private sector – a virtual civil “entrapment” in the public sector, perhaps

    do they know? not necessarily – probably not too far from the truth to characterise these programs as akin to an off-the-shelf franchise purchase [think call-centre "script"] – & if designed in the states, where prejudice-light bankrupcy is the norm – that just about bags the squonk

    sk shipping vs petroexport 2009