In the name of Duty
Eric Pickles has not always been our favourite person. However, for every piece of bluster and unwarranted attack, there are also flashes of genius.
One of these flashes of genius appeared a few weeks ago when Mr Pickles released a full lust of the statutory duties faced by local authorities and invited us, the informed members of the public, to nominate duties to remove.
We are not, and have never claimed to be, local government experts but in our role as ordinary officers we thought it might be fun to have a read through the duties and identify those we thought were silly, amusing or just worth a quick comment.
Do enjoy our musings below and then if you feel up to it please feel free to pull out the ones you like from the DCLG website and add them in the comments.
DCLG_067 Involve local representatives
Isn’t this what we do when we work with any Councillor?
DCLG_066 Best value duty
I could put this here for ideological reasons and an in-depth criticism of Best Value, CPA, CAA etc. But no, for me it’s just the name. I like the idea of a duty that is just best value. It is like we’ve gone into a supermarket and gone to the discount aisle and got the economic version of duties. Do we get two for the price of one?
DCLG_063 Adopt standing orders
If you didn’t know, this could be seen as a duty to ensure all Officers stood at appropriate moments, like when the Leader/Elected Mayor came into the room. But even if the name wasn’t silly do local authorities really need to be told to govern themselves?
DCLG_076 Have regard to Local Area Agreement targets
Only regard, we don’t have to actually follow them?!? Who writes law like that?
DCLG_083 Promote democracy (not yet commenced).
It’s the fact that it is not yet commenced. So at the moment we don’t need to do anything about what our whole system is about – democracy? Really? And if we’ve survived this long without the regulation do we really need it?
BIS_034 Enforcement of Nightwear (Safety) Regulations
Do we have to ensure everyone is wearing appropriate pyjamas?
DCMS_005 A local authority shall only dispose of an ancient monument situated in England which has been acquired by agreement, gift or transfer (i.e. under s11 or 21 Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979) after consulting with the Secretary of State
I didn’t even know we could just get rid of such things? And if we can why on earth do we have to ask the Secretary of State for approval?
Here’s a classic example of the general approach of successive governments which can be summarised as: ‘We don’t trust you to do it right, so here is the obvious’:
DCLG_010 To consult tenants before their homes are sold to a private landlord
And here are a few more fun bits and pieces:
DFT_001 Transport for London duty at the time of granting a hackney carriage licence to give the driver an abstract of the relevant laws and a badge
The oldest duty we could find (from 1843!) and one that is still going strong
FSA_021 Smoke Flavourings (England) Regulations 2005; Each food authority shall enforce and execute these Regulations within their area.
Who would have thought that smoke flavourings needed regulation?
DFE_100 The Education (Specified Work and Registration) (England) Regulations 2003. Require schools to check that teachers they employ are registered with the General Teaching Council for England (unless they are exempt from the requirements to have Qualified Teacher Status.)
Are schools really going to employ unqualified and unregistered teachers if not told otherwise by law? Really?
This is just the tip of an iceberg (we just don’t have time to read them all), and done with tongue in cheek, but collectively these duties paint a picture of successive governments which didn’t trust local government at all. Hopefully this is about to change!
Please do add your own comments below.