Headlines: November 16th, 2006



The public needs to see see strong devolutionary measures in the final report of the Lyons Inquiry into local government, in next year’s Spending Review and in the detail of legislation unveiled in yesterday’s Queen Speech, according to the Local Government Association. The LGA said the Speech was just one of a series of important opportunities to devolve powers to cities, towns and counties and the Local Government Bill alone would not deliver devolution.

The legislative programme outlined in the speech included a Local Government Bill that will contain measures on performance management, political leadership, Local Area Agreements frontline councillors and community engagement. The proposed 22 new bills also included measures on further education, climate change and transport, which will have a direct impact on the work of local authorities.

Reacting to the Local Government measures specifically, the LGA said that by the end of this Parliament people would expect to see real progress on devolution. That, it said, would mean a Local Government Bill that boosted the influence of frontline councillors, giving them more freedom to speak out and to act on issues in their own wards. It would also need to have created a responsive local performance management system, cutting the number of targets and delivering real improvements in local services with more effective partnership working.

The Association added though, that local authorities and councillors themselves would have to rise to the challenge of a more devolved system and be relentless in driving improvement, ambitious for their communities, strong in partnership working and more responsive and accountable to those they represented.

Other proposals that will impact on local authorities outlined in the speech will include legisaltion on offender management, measure on concessionary bus travel, planning reforms and proposals around mental health, and welfare reform as well as immigration and border controls.

Meanwhile a leading motoring organisation, the RAC Foundation, has welcomed the commitment in the Queen’s Speech to tackling congestion and taking action to deal with climate change, but called on Ministers to provide more detail about their intention.