Headlines: July 24th, 2003

Local authority emergency planning units need more cash to fund their increased workload, according to a survey of top-tier authorities in England and Wales by the Local Government Association.It shows that the authorities are spending just over 32 million pounds on emergency planning, but that the current Civil Defence grant is only 19 million. At the same time, following proposed new civil contingencies legislation, eight out of ten councils say they will need to increase staff numbers in their emergency planning units.

Councillor Susie Kemp, who chairs the LGA Public Protection Executive said top-tier councils had seen all areas of work for their emergency planning units increase since the attack on the World Trade Centre, but available resources had not risen. The biggest increase in workload had come in multi-agency co-operation which was mentioned by 88 per cent of authorities in the survey. Almost as many – 81 per cent – cited the increased need for plan writing and 76 per cent pointed to the increased workload involved in risk assessment.

The government is currently proposing civil contingencies legislation that will place a broad duty on all local authorities to carry out emergency planning, a move that is supported by the LGA. The Civil Defence grant is due to be phased out with emergency planning being included as part of the Formula Spending Share for local authorities.

The LGA has said it would continue to lobby strongly for sufficient funding to ensure all local authorities are able carry out their emergency planning role. “Resources have not increased to meet the overall rise in workload. Emergency planning units have worked an average of 374 hours of unpaid overtime in the last year and almost all authorities provide round the clock cover,” said Councillor Kemp.