Headlines: March 14th, 2005

Local government leaders have protested at the expected recommendation of the Hampton Review to move regulation, including trading standards and environmental health, from town halls to Whitehall with the establishment of a central, national agency. The Review, led by Philip Hampton the Chairman of Sainsbury plc, has the remit to identify how regulatory services bureaucracy can be cut without affecting the standard of protection that is offered to the public. It will be released as part of the Chancellor’s budget on 16 March.The Local Government Association and the Local Authorities Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services expressed their concerns that the creation of a central body would make business less responsive and accountable to local people. Moving responsibility away from local government would also take away the benefits of integration with a whole range of inter-linked services through the local authority, from Building Control and Emergency Planning to Refuse Collection. Councils are also well placed to integrate with a whole number of other local services such as hospitals and schools.

The creation of a centralised body would benefit large national companies and allow closer working on nationwide issues. At the same time it would result in local people having less influence over the regulatory function to call business to account in their area.

Councillor Geoffrey Theobald, Chairman of the Co-ordinators of Local Regulatory Services said: “Local authorities are essential in the effective delivery of regulatory services such as trading standards and environmental health. Local authorities are in the best position to tailor their services to meet the needs of their local communities and we believe that the creation of a central agency would result in further bureaucracy and services that are slower to respond to local needs. Local authority regulatory services are fundamental to ensure public protection and we feel this would be jeopardised if these powers were taken away from local councils”.