Stephen Byers, the new Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, has shed more light on plans to modernise local government finances.He has promised a white paper in the autumn which he says will give freedom and flexibility to high performing councils, and tighten controls for councils who do not deliver.
The first term of the Government produced a Local Government Act largely concerned with the structure of councils.
This next tranche of legislation will iron out many of the complaints councils have over their complex funding regime – but as in so many other areas – the Government is determined to tie concessions tightly to delivery.
It will include the lifting of unnecessary restrictions and bureaucracy in other topic areas, ranging from Best Value to funding regimes.
It will also see reform of investment regulations to give local authorities more freedom to decide where they invest surplus funds to get the best return, greater freedom to introduce fees and charges for services which are discretionary as opposed to statutory, and freedom to retain the income from fines to reinvest in the local environment.