Headlines: June 22nd, 2010

The eight regional local authority leaders’ boards are to be scrapped. They took over most of the functions and staff of the old regional assemblies including transport, housing and planning. The Local Authority Standards Board will suffer the same fate. It was set up in 2007 to deal with complaints which local authorities could not deal with themselves.

The regional leader’s boards are at the centre of the regional architecture from the local authority perspective. They are the strategic decision making body on issues of interest and relevance to local authorities at the regional level. As well as providing a local government voice they developed partnerships with key organizations such as the regional government office, Homes and Communities Agency, Environment Agency, Strategic Health Authority and wider stakeholders, including the business, environmental and community and voluntary sectors.

The responsibilities of the boards will now be passed to local authorities and they will be expected to set up their own arrangements for liaising and for providing a forum for reaching agreement on housing, regeneration and transport programmes and strategies. It is not known if the staff from the boards will transfer to local authorities.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said: “This is another step in wresting control from the bureaucrats, stopping the top down diktats and axing unelected, ineffective quangos. This is the nail in the coffin of the unelected, unaccountable and unwanted Regional Assemblies. We are unravelling this complex system, putting the community back in charge of how their area develops and saving the public purse £16m at the same time.

The abolition of the the Local Government Standards Board was announced by Communities Minister Andrew Stunell. He said: “Around the country, there are councillors of every political persuasion deeply frustrated by the fact that the Standards Board remains a burden and a threat to them. It costs £7.8 million, but it dealt with only 1,000 real complaints last year, which is £7,800 per complaint. The sooner we get rid of it, the better. That will be done on a statutory basis through the decentralisation and localism Bill.”

No details about alternative arrangements for dealing with complaints have been published.