COMMONS

Clive Betts MP warns ministers not to undermine localism

04 October 2011

Clive Betts MP warns ministers not to undermine localism. 

The Government Response to the Communities and Local Government Committee Third Report of Session 2010–11 into Localism (HC 547) (PDF 1.79MB), published on 7 June 2011, has been published as a Command Paper (CM 8183).

Clive Betts MP, Chair of The Communities and Local Government Committee, has welcomed the publication today of DCLG’s response to the Committee’s report on Localism, but called on Minsters not to undermine decentralisation by intervening on local policy matters.

The committee report, which was published in June this year, pressed the Government to set out more clearly its policies and priorities on localism, and to address apparent tensions such as on the role of elected local authorities in decentralisation.

Mr Betts said

"I am pleased to see that the Committee’s inquiry has prompted the Government to bring some clarity to its intentions and principles regarding localism. The Open Public Services White Paper has in the meantime addressed some of the issues we raised, such as the vital role of local authorities and the need for mechanisms to protect the vulnerable."

Mr Betts particularly welcomes the Government’s commitment to consider further recommendations for codifying the relationship between central and local government, and to consider including central Government services in the scope of the Community Right to Challenge.

He continued

"However, there are some aspects of the policy where I continue to disagree with the Government’s stance,” said Mr Betts. The Committee’s report called on Ministers to rein in their interventionist instincts, but the Government has defended the right of Ministers to express their opinions on decisions made by local authorities. Mr Betts commented, “It is unrealistic to maintain that pronouncements from Whitehall on local policy decisions unpalatable to Ministers do not undermine more positive developments, such as  the removal of performance targets for councils."

Mr Betts also expressed concern that there is no reference in the Government’s response to the progress report the Committee understood the Minister for Decentralisation would be preparing over the summer.

"We accept that the Government prefers each Whitehall department to have flexibility in how it implements localism, but without some means to compare their actions to common goals it remains impossible to judge whether departments are merely paying lip service to decentralisation. I am sure the Committee will be interested in following this up."

The CLG Committee looks forward to continuing the debate with Ministers, representatives of local government and others on the future direction and impact of the localism agenda. The Committee has already questioned the Secretary of State further on financial autonomy for councils and the Community Budgets project, and intends to continue its close interest in the progress of that initiative.

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