Headlines: February 2nd, 2010

Local councils are to get stronger powers to scrutinise all local public services, including the possibility of compelling organisations to attend scrutiny meetings. A new Private Members Bill, which is being supported by the Government, will give residents the right to hold service providers to account through their elected representatives.

The move would allow people to find local solutions to problems such as the digging up of roads by utility companies, poor facilities at railway stations, or threatened local bus routes. The extension of scrutiny powers is part of the Total Place approach, giving councils more say over spending across their area to cut waste and duplication.

If the new powers are approved by Parliament, councils could legally compel organisations to answer to public scrutiny hearings and to justify their actions as well as responding in full to recommendations made by the local authorities to resolve problems. The Bill will complete arrangements so all significant local public service spending would be covered by scrutiny.

The Communities Secretary, John Denham said: “Local people should be able to elect councillors who can get back to them on the performance of all local public services, not just the ones run by the council itself.” David Chaytor the MP, who is taking forward the Overview and Scrutiny Bill, said it would allow councils to step in and fix problems and to raise standards where services were falling short.