Merits Committee criticise Department for insufficient evidence

04 March 2010

The House of Lords Merits Committee has today published its report on proposals made by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) for the creation of two unitary councils in Exeter and Norwich.

The Committee notes that the proposals do not conform to criteria published by the DCLG, and considers that a more detailed case for the proposed course of action than the assertion of “compelling reasons” should have been provided.

The Department’s response to supplementary questions from the Committee was considered to have failed to provide any more robust evidence. The Committee therefore remains unclear about how unitary status is expected to solve the problems identified.

The Committee also commented that the parts of the explanatory material to which it routinely looks for evidence to support a policy proposal, in particular the Impact Assessment and the outcome of consultation, did not combine to make a clear, evidence-backed case for the proposal.

The evidence received by the Committee, published in the report, illustrates to the House the different circumstances in Exeter and Norwich.

Chairman of the Merits Committee, Lord Rosser, commented:

“Our report raises a number of questions about the way the DCLG has gone about formulating its proposals. The evidence we have received from the public illustrates concerns about a range of potential consequences. Parliament deserves better information about what effect these proposals will have, both in the cities and in the surrounding areas.

“It is not our role to reach a view on which local government structure is the right one, and we have not done. It is our job to draw to the attention of the House any issues which it may wish to take into account when it comes to debate the specific proposals in these Orders.”

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