John Prescott’s department has announced the direction of its share of extra money from Gordon Brown’s spending review – but not everyone is happy.Spending on housing and planning will rise to 4.7 billion pounds by 2005-06 – up by 1.5 billion on this year’s figures.
The new money will be targeted at creating new homes in housing hotspots, extra help for key workers, action to tackle low demand in the North and the Midlands, a faster and fairer planning system, and new money to rebuild some of the poorest neighbourhoods.
In planning, the old two tier system of both county and district councils having a planning role, will end.
Currently county councils produce the broad plan for an area’s future (the county structure plan) and district councils decide individual planning applications.
The Local Government Association described John Prescott’s decision to cut county councils out of planning at the local level as ‘flawed’. The LGA instead wanted a system in which all councils work together to integrate their plans. It says that county, district and unitary councils increasingly work together to provide a wide range of crucial public services. The Government clearly feels that reducing dual council input will make planning more efficient.
An underlying concern for local government is for the future of county councils. John Prescott is particularly keen on the growth of the regional development agencies, which were also given more resources in the spending review. There are some who say that with increased regional power, and local district councils managing decisions on the ground, there is little need for a tier in between.