That was the local government week that was


New week; same rubbish picture

Another week and another big Government announcement that will have a large impact on local government. Thus, where the budget led last week the National Planning Policy Framework followed this week. As always on these big days we are indebted to the Guardian Local Government Network for keeping us appraised of what is going on. This summary of responses from key stakeholders was a useful quick catch up. As this comment from the Chief Executive of the National Trust demonstrates it also showed that the response was actually fairly positive:

There are a number of important changes that have been made to the draft, responding to concerns that we and others raised. All these changes improve the document and give it a better tone and balance.

Now the serious business of planning begins. The country needs huge effort at a local level to get plans in place that properly reflect the integration of social, economic and environmental goals, and protect places people value.

However, if like us planning is not your thing this wordle from @gaillyk summed it all up very quickly:

Whilst talking about local development this story from the USA tickled me. Yes, we have some lobbying of local authorities over planning issues but US Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has a lobbyist dedicated to helping him build his house. As Politico report:

At Mitt Romney’s proposed California beach house, the cars will have their own separate elevator. There’s also a planned outdoor shower and a 3,600-square foot basement — a room with more floor space than the existing home’s entire living quarters. Those are just some of the amenities planned for the massive renovation of the Romneys’ home in the tony La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego, according to plans on file with the city. A project this ambitious comes with another feature you don’t always find with the typical fixer-upper: its own lobbyist, hired by Romney to push the plan through the approval process.

No matter what happens with our more localised planning system please don’t ever let us learn that lesson from our American cousins.

Thanks to @williamoulton for alerting us of the impending end of the executive and scrutiny function and the replacement of it with good old fashioned committees. As the Local Government lawyer reports:

Two more local authorities are to take advantage of the Localism Act 2011 and put proposals for a return to the committee system before meetings of their full council in May, it has emerged.

The governance committee at Brighton & Hove Council resolved last week to recommend to the unitary authority’s full council that it switch its governance arrangements from the current Leader and Cabinet model.

The London Borough of Sutton’s Executive meanwhile last night endorsed recommendations from the authority’s Community Leadership Advisory Group for a return to the committee system. The recommendations are to be referred to full council for adoption.

Many guest posts submitted to this blog seem to like the committee system and whilst this author is not a fan the fact that local councils can choose for themselves seems like a pretty good thing. It’ll be interesting to see if committees mark 2 have the same problems as they did first time around. Indeed, I’m hopeful that some budding academic might use this as a perfect laboratory for testing these differing models (along with the mayoral system).

In other news the Government have announced a pot of money for local authorities who are able to help so-called ‘troubled families’ stop being so, well, ‘troubled’. A detailed discussion of this is the subject for another post but here’s one question based on the report from the Press Assocaition:

Local councils which succeed in tackling problem families are to be paid up to £4,000 for each household whose lives they turn around.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said the payment-by-results scheme could produce significant savings for the taxpayer by reducing the £9 billion a year currently spent on the 120,000 most troubled families inEngland.

Under the plan, local authorities inEnglandwill stand to gain if they succeed in getting the children into school, reducing youth crime and anti-social behaviour, and putting the adults back on a path to work.

However they will only receive the full payment once they have delivered results and reduced the average £75,000 a year these families cost the taxpayer through their demands on public services.

If we look at this purely from a central control versus localism point of view what exactly is the difference between ‘ring-fencing’ and payment by results?

Last week we mentioned a story from Sri Lanka about badly behaving local councillors. Today, our story of councillor strange-ness is focused purely on the UK with this story from the Northern Echo:

A LABOUR politician has stunned his town council colleagues by claiming his “real mother” is a 9ft green alien with eight fingers.

Councillor Simon Parkes, who was elected to represent Stakesby ward on Whitby Town Council last month, said although he has had hundreds of close encounters with extra-terrestrials, it will not interfere with his mission to help residents at the seaside resort.

Speaking on YouTube, Coun Parkes said he first saw an alien at the age of eight months, when “a traditional kite-shaped face”, with huge eyes, tiny nostrils and a thin mouth appeared over his cot.

You couldn’t make it up, even if you wanted to.

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3 Comments on “That was the local government week that was”

  1. Legalese Says:

    “Indeed, I’m hopeful that some budding academic might use this as a perfect laboratory for testing these differing models (along with the mayoral system).”

    A reasoned assessment of mayors available here:
    http://www.nlgn.org.uk/public/2012/assessing-the-local-authority-mayors-outside-london/

  2. Jeremiah Says:

    “If we look at this purely from a central control versus localism point of view what exactly is the difference between ‘ring-fencing’ and payment by results?”

    That’s easy. Ring-fencing means the government gives you the money to do what it tells you. Payment by results means you do what the government tells you, but if it doesn’t work you don’t get the money anyway. That’s more localist, because it’s the local budget rather than the national budget that bears the risk.

    The government might claim that they’re giving councils the freedom to work out what to do about troubled families, rather than telling them what to do. But from what I’ve seen of the “guidance” on this, it’s not easy to tell the difference there.


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