Interference in council affairs scaled back

October 18, 2010 12:42 PM

Last week, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) took a step towards reducing restrictions and burdensome constraints on councils. Communities Secretary Eric Pickles added to his already heaving pile of reforms by announcing his plans to scrap Local Area Agreements (LAAs). These agreements require local councils to regularly report back to central government outlining their progress on meeting a set of pre-agreed targets which are worked towards over a fixed number of years.


The DCLG reports that removing these restrictions will strip out 4,700 Whitehall-set targets from councils’ daily workloads, meaning they can instead focus on local priorities and delivering key services. It will also help give residents some power back as their local authority will be more accountable to them and not to central government.


The Local Government Association (LGA) have shown how much getting rid of things like LAAs will help, calculating that 74,000 pages of rules and instructions have “rained down on local government from Westminster in the past decade.” They claim that between April and August this year, councils have been given 1,355 pages of material to wade through.   


Pickles’ announcement on Wednesday will surely be welcomed by the LGA and local councils across Britain. Baroness Eaton, Chair of the LGA, put it succinctly:


“There is no justification for the sheer quantity of form-filling, data returns, reviews and micromanagement being foisted on local government. Red tape of this kind wastes valuable time and resources which councils need to spend delivering essential front-line services.”


Concerns from councils and the LGA – and indeed local residents – are not falling on deaf ears. As we highlighted in our latest report on 'unnecessary jobs' in councils, much council waste is as a result of top-down, centrally imposed legislation. But there is still a lot more that can be done. We have one of the most centralised tax systems in the world and this hinders genuine localism. As well as the obvious benefits to local accountability, decentralising our tax system would benefit the country economically, as revealed by TPA Research Fellow Mike Denham in this paper.

Last week, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) took a step towards reducing restrictions and burdensome constraints on councils. Communities Secretary Eric Pickles added to his already heaving pile of reforms by announcing his plans to scrap Local Area Agreements (LAAs). These agreements require local councils to regularly report back to central government outlining their progress on meeting a set of pre-agreed targets which are worked towards over a fixed number of years.


The DCLG reports that removing these restrictions will strip out 4,700 Whitehall-set targets from councils’ daily workloads, meaning they can instead focus on local priorities and delivering key services. It will also help give residents some power back as their local authority will be more accountable to them and not to central government.


The Local Government Association (LGA) have shown how much getting rid of things like LAAs will help, calculating that 74,000 pages of rules and instructions have “rained down on local government from Westminster in the past decade.” They claim that between April and August this year, councils have been given 1,355 pages of material to wade through.   


Pickles’ announcement on Wednesday will surely be welcomed by the LGA and local councils across Britain. Baroness Eaton, Chair of the LGA, put it succinctly:


“There is no justification for the sheer quantity of form-filling, data returns, reviews and micromanagement being foisted on local government. Red tape of this kind wastes valuable time and resources which councils need to spend delivering essential front-line services.”


Concerns from councils and the LGA – and indeed local residents – are not falling on deaf ears. As we highlighted in our latest report on 'unnecessary jobs' in councils, much council waste is as a result of top-down, centrally imposed legislation. But there is still a lot more that can be done. We have one of the most centralised tax systems in the world and this hinders genuine localism. As well as the obvious benefits to local accountability, decentralising our tax system would benefit the country economically, as revealed by TPA Research Fellow Mike Denham in this paper.

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