Lords Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee - Call for evidence

Draft Exeter and Devon (Structural Changes) Order 2010

Draft Norwich and Norfolk (Structural Changes) Order 2010


Urgent invitation to comment by Monday 22nd February 2010

The Merits Committee has decided to take written evidence on these two draft Structural Changes Orders which set out proposals for the establishment of the cities of Exeter and Norwich as single tier “unitary” authorities from 1st April 2011. These are the latest in a series of similar Orders  setting up unitary authorities and making transitional arrangements. The history and background to the latest Orders is set out in an Explanatory Memorandum to the instruments which will be published on the OPSI website with the draft instruments. 

In laying these Orders before Parliament, DCLG made a written statement  which set out their reasons for pursuing this course, even though the proposals did not fully meet the assessment criteria set out in their guidance:

“Under Section 7 of the 2007 Act we can decide to implement, with or without modification, any of the unitary proposals before us, or to take no action on them... In the case of each proposal we have reached a judgment on it by reference to the five criteria: affordability, broad cross-section of support, strategic leadership, neighbourhood empowerment and value for money and equity on services.

...In his statement to the House of 5 December 2007 (Official Report, Commons, 2/12/07; col. 66 WS) the then Minister for Local Government stated that the Secretary of State judged that the unitary proposals for Exeter and Norwich would, if implemented, not be reasonably likely to deliver the outcomes specified by the affordability criterion, nor in the case of Norwich the outcomes specified by the value for money services criterion. She also judged that these proposals, if implemented, would be reasonably likely to deliver the outcomes specified by the other criteria.

We have considered these proposals afresh against the criteria and our assessment is the same as my right honourable friends in December 2007. However, we consider that in both cases there are compelling reasons to depart from the presumption that unitary proposals which do not meet all five criteria are not to be implemented.

In both cases these reasons are twofold.

First, the Government's priorities today are above all for jobs and economic growth. Local government has an essential role to play in delivering these economic priorities, and this role is of a significance that could not be contemplated in 2006 when the criteria were developed. We believe, as has been made clear to us by the representations we have received, that a unitary Exeter and a unitary Norwich would each be a far more potent force for delivering positive economic outcomes both for the city and more widely than the status quo two-tier local government.

Secondly, with today's approach to developing public service delivery, as envisaged by our command paper-Putting the Frontline First...-announced on 7 December 2009 (Official Report, Commons; col. 1 WS), including the Total Place approach, a unitary Exeter and a unitary Norwich could open the way for improvements to the quality of public services. Through innovative shared services and partnership arrangements the public services for the cities will be able to be tailored to the needs of the urban area whilst still being able to achieve the economies of scale that are possible under the countywide delivery of such services as adult social care and children's services."

The purpose of this call for evidence is to provide the Committee with information about the practicalities of the implementation of this policy, so that it can better fulfil its role of considering whether the Orders are likely to achieve their policy objective.

The Committee invites concise written evidence by 18.00 on Monday 22 February 2010 on any or all of the following points:

  • how it is anticipated that these Unitary Authorities will work in practice;

  • how likely they are to achieve the Government's objectives;

  • whether sufficient time is allowed to implement the changes;

  • whether the estimates of costs and benefits are accurate;

  • whether the 'outcome of consultation' accurately represents the various views; and

  • whether the changes might give rise to unintended consequences.

Witnesses are welcome to address different issues in their submission if they consider that the Committee has omitted a significant issue from this call for evidence, though responses should not reopen the debate on the original general policy set out in the Local Government etc. Act 2007.

When responding please briefly summarise the characteristics of your organisation and the interest that you represent (if any). If you are part of a group we request that only one response is sent, not multiple copies of a letter making the same points.

1. See for example previous Merits Committee reports on Structural Changes Orders: Bedfordshire (15th report of session 2007-08), Cheshire (10th report of session 2007-08) and Cornwall, Durham, Northumberland, Shropshire and Wiltshire (7th report of session 2007-08)

2. http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/dsis2010 the instruments were not posted at the time of publishing this call for evidence but should be there shortly. OPSI is a Government website and outside our control

3. This call for evidence reproduces extracts from the statement. The full written ministerial statement is available in HL Hansard, 10 February 2010, cols WS 58-61 http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200910/ldhansrd/text/100210-wms0002.htm#10021074000281

How to submit your evidence

The deadline for submitting written evidence is 18.00 on Monday 22 February. Evidence and inquiries should be addressed to:

The Clerk
Select Committee on the Merits of Statutory Instruments
House of Lords
London SW1A 0PW

Telephone 020-7219 8821, facsimile 020 7219 2571, email merits@parliament.uk

The role of the Merits Committee is to examine statutory instruments (such as these Orders) laid before the House of Lords, and to draw important instruments to the special attention of the House. Further information about the Committee, including terms of reference, membership and previous reports, can be found at: http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/merits.cfm

The submission should be signed and dated, together with a note of the author's name and status and of whether the evidence is submitted on an individual or group basis. Submissions must be no longer than 4 sides of A4 and should be set out in numbered paragraphs. Please note that any information that you provide may be published and to enable this please supply an electronic copy (preferably in MSWord) by email to merits@parliament.uk. Annexes may be submitted but may not be published.

  • Witnesses may publicise their written evidence themselves, but in doing so must indicate that it was prepared for the Committee.

  • Evidence becomes the property of the Committee, and may be printed or circulated by the Committee at any stage. If your evidence is not printed, it will in due course be made available to the public in the House of Lords Records Office.

  • Personal contact details supplied to the Committee will be removed from evidence before publication and from the copy deposited in the Records Office. However, personal contact details will be retained by the Committee Office and used for specific purposes relating to the Committee's work, for instance to seek additional information or to send copies of the Committee's Report.