Localism and council funding: today’s announcements

Two big pieces of local government news today – more powers and less money.

On the more powers front, here are some of the highlights from the Localism Bill:

  • A General Power of Competence for Councils – in other words, councils will in future be able to do what they think is right for their area, rather than only be able to take action in areas laid down by central government
  • Letting councils return to the Committee System if they wish, and introducing the option for more Directly Elected Mayors
  • Abolition of the Standards Board
  • Giving local people the power to veto “excessive” council tax increases
  • Devolve greater powers to London, such as housing, regeneration and the Olympics Legacy

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat Local Government Minister Andrew Stunell said of the financial settlement:

The cuts are tough, there’s no doubt about that, but the Liberal Democrats have worked hard to deliver a fair settlement for local government.

We’ve ensured that no council will face cuts of greater than 9% of their total spending power, and have guaranteed that authorities which previously received Working Neighbourhoods Fund will receive transitional funding to help wind up the programme.

Labour’s criticism won’t wash. They outlined plans for £52bn of cuts, and now won’t say where they would fall.

And contrary to the Labour scare stories, we’ve delivered a fair settlement for local authorities, including ensuring that the most vulnerable are protected, which has always been the Lib Dems’ top priority.

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30 Comments

  • Councils can do whatever they like as long as it involves outsourcing to Tory donors.

  • That ‘general power of competence’ is terrifying. The bill would give some of the most utterly useless and downright nasty people in our society the power to do whatever they feel like doing. Local councils do not represent local people, or anyone but their own staff. The less they do the better things work.

  • Well, generl powers of competence are what apply in various countries, including France, without too much evidence of terrifying failure. The abolition of the Standards Board in England, or from what I have initially seen, the abolition of an effective standards regime for councillors, in combination with this, is worrying, and I certainly think is something we should work hard to overturn during the parliamentary progress of the Bill.

  • Leviticus18_23 13th Dec '10 - 8:15pm

    Saw this & thought you’d like it. Tough but fair…?

    “Lewisham to lose 6.9% of our budget in a *single year* (£21.8m) RICH Richmond loses just -0.61% (how is this fair?)”

  • If we were proposing the abolition of an effective standards regime for councillors then I think that might be worth opposing. What we have however is something that has seen councillors ending up in court for taking up casework on behalf of residents, facing hearings over postings on twitter etc etc.

    What there will be as a replacement is a criminal offence of deliberately withholding a personal interest.

  • So the Welsh Government freezes tuition fees and limits cuts in council spending to 1.7% next year.

    That’s under a funding formula (Barnett) that the Lib Dems say leaves Wales “seriously underfunded compared to comparabele regions of England”

    Governing is about choices. The coalition could have made the same choices for the poorer regions of England that the ‘underfunded’ Welsh Government made for Wales.

    It didn’t.

    How does it feel to be a prison bitch?

  • Voting against excessive Council Tax rises?

    My, that sort of thing worked a treat in California didn’t it.

  • Some of the big losers are Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Manchester, Rochdale, South Tyneside, Sunderland, Blackburn, Hartlepool Middlesbrough, Barrow-in-Furness.
    Richmond-upon-Thames council and Surrey council have very modest cuts, and Dorset gets an increase in funding.

    Andrew Stunnell’s statement above, is very misleading: “We’ve ensured that no council will face cuts of greater than 9% of their total spending power.”

    Take Barrow-in-Furness, as an example:

    Current spending power £16.2m

    Next year reduces to £12.3m (23.8% cut)

    One-off transition payment of £2.4m for the next year only, brings reduction down to 8.9%

    In 2012/13 spending power reduces even further down to £10.9m

    In the space of two years, the council’s revenue will go from £16.2m per annum to £10,9m per annum (a 32.7% cut)

  • RichardSM.

    It’s all a con.

    I can’t see it as anything other than Pickles ensuring that Lib + Lab councils suffer.

    Why not Tory? I live in a leafy Shire uber-Tory constituency. My council has incredibly low Council tax…and painfully low levels of service…supplemented by me having to pay for anything from grass collection to pest removal.

    Its a con – and the Lib Dems don’t see it coming.

  • I see local government settlements are as easy to analyse as ever
    “Poorest councils will face biggest cuts” (Guardian)
    “Cuts in council services to be deeper in wealthy areas as Coaltion diverts millions into poorer towns and cities” (Telegraph)

  • Stunnell the latest human shield selling Tory polices tonight on Newsnight. Peddling half truths at best.

  • “Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Newham, Manchester, Rochdale, Knowsley, Liverpool, St Helens, Doncaster and South Tyneside are among the 36 local authorities that take the maximum cut of 8.9%. Meanwhile Dorset gets a 0.25% increase in funding and Windsor and Maidenhead, Poole, West Sussex, Wokingham, Richmond upon Thames and Buckinghamshire all get cuts of 1% or below.”

    Indefensible

  • @Tim13: Hasnt abolishing the standards board been a Lib Dem policy for a while?

    @Chris: Hasnt the ‘general power of competence’ been a Lib Dem policy for a while?

    Mind you, anonymity for rape suspects was also a Lib Dem policy, but a surprising amount of Lib Dems thought it was a terrible idea as soon as it was proposed. One wonders how many “Lib Dems” have actually read Lib Dem policy.

  • @Hywel: LOL! Yeh, typical.

  • Yes, M-Boy, it has – and I have opposed it all along – frankly it is ill-analysed, based on councillor self-interest “Oh they are only opposing me on trivial party political grounds, yah-boo”. Now, one does not dispute that some cases will be trivial, in the same way that some civil prosecutions are trivial, and of course, it is up to those administering the system to ensure they don’t get anywhere. As far a the current “standards regime” is concerned, it has been comprehensively streamlined in order for this to happen. One of the problems is that “declaration of interest” is probably taken up more than any other issue, and although non-declaration can be serious, and sometimes criminal, most of the serious offenders know how to get round the system.

    Chris’s earlier comment about “downright nasty” people is what mainly concerns me. The bullies, harassers, power manipulators etc. It is difficult enough to deal with these with a standards regime in place, without it, it becomes nigh on impossible. Unfortunately these people gravitate to centres of power, of which politics and local government is one. No party has a monopoly of these – I have seen people from all three main parties and independents who seem to be in that category. If you look at bans etc handed out by the standards authorities, most are for this type of offence. How do we deal with them?

  • Over the two year period, Surrey’s spending power will go from £826.4m to £798.9m
    A loss of £27.5million, equating to a 3.3% cut.

    Over the same period, Manchester’s spending power will go from £623.9m to £514.7m
    A loss of £109.2 million, equating to a 17.5% cut.

  • @RichardSM: That is because Surrey replies much more heavily on its own Council Tax for its funding, which is not being cut.

  • @ MBoy
    Posted 14th December 2010 at 12:27 am | Permalink
    @RichardSM: That is because Surrey replies much more heavily on its own Council Tax for its funding, which is not being cut

    @Mboy but it sounds like you are saying that that’s perfectly ok (forgive me if its not the case and please argue back)

    I live in in a relatively prosperous part of the country – I pay a bigger proportion of the counci’s expenditure than a poorer area…. therefore I shouldn’t have bear the pain of any council cutbacks..

    Meanwhile I live in a poorer part of the country – I haven’t got the income so I pay a lesser proportion of mycouncil’s expenditure for the services…. and my local council bears a larger proportion of any council cutbacks.

    This is classical Conservative policy towards local government expenditure – we used to call it divide and rule…..

    Are Liberals for or against this……??

  • Maureen Rigg 14th Dec '10 - 8:48am

    I welcome the introduction of differing floors – just hope they get Stockton in the right band. We’ve spent years being told that our needs mean we should get £x but that would be really difficult for some of the richer/more self sufficient authorities so, sorry, you can only have £y (always significantly less).
    The transitional arrangement for WNF is the result, at least in part, of vigorous lobbying from the North East MPs, councils and Lib Dem local parties so although it’s only for a year I’m very very relieved to see it and to have the chance to phase out those projects properly. People who’ve never relied on such grants might say that we knew they were coming to an end anyway, but in the past they’ve always been replaced by something similar – not the most efficient way of doing things but leading to a sense in some quarters that grants are everlasting!

  • @Mboy

    Manchester may have far more factories and industrial premises in their area, which means they have to hand-over more of their rates to central government, but I don’t see that’s any fault of the people of Manchester.

    Remember that “we’re all in this together.” Or doesn’t that apply anymore?

  • Stockton-on-Tees current spending power of £178.7m will go down to £155m.

    You’ll have to find £23.7 million. What do you plan to cut?

  • And despite all the comments above…Can anyone still claim that this isn’t an attack on Lib Dem + Labour councils directly?

  • Emsworthian 14th Dec '10 - 9:51am

    It’s truly amazing what some of our people will say to keep their jobs.Not a word
    anywhere about our alternative to CT. Pickles devolution is an illusion. His so
    called power of competence doesn”t stretch to councils seeking new forms of revenue.
    It does include telling them when to empty bins,imposes mayors, removes their involvment in schools,
    turns the planning process into vox populi politics, excludes them from
    Lansley’s new back door privatised health service arrangements.
    When are we going to stop being the chorus fn Dave’s operas?

  • roy's claret army 14th Dec '10 - 10:39am

    New Localism pioneered by the LibDems will mean that councils no longer have to provide sites for travellers.

    Very democratic, not very Liberal.

  • One of the proposed cuts to literally save pennies is school crossing patrols. Sadly the only time the coalition conscience on this will be exercised is when a school kid in mown down and maimed or killed at a spot which used to be ‘policed’ by a warden.

    It’s worth noting that even if wardens are replaced by teachers or parents that the replacements will not have the legal power to order a car to stop which will soon be recognised and exploited by the many dangerous drivers out there.

    What kind of society are we creating here when we withdraw safeguards for our kids to satisfy the cuts agenda and ideology pursued by the Tories and their fellow travellers in the coalition.

  • re the levels of different cuts to councils

    Has this apparent unfairness in fact got something to do with an attempt to redress the imbalance in the per capita grant from central govenrment to local government in different areas? Do anybody know?

    For years my tory shire councils (two tier) have been complainly bitterly about the amount they receive per head of the population from the centre and saying that they have been discriminated against in favour of strongly labour voting areas. I don’t think its disputed that Labour has been blatantly pushing government spending towards its perceived strongholds for many years so if government is restoring some sort of balance then perhaps its about time. Where I live we don’t have any useful public transport, our school buses have been axed, and our roads are falling apart. Plus we have a county council social services department which is one of the worst in the county for dealing with children’s social services.

  • I find the story: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-somerset-11991019 to be fascinating in that the local LibDem MP think the local Conservative authority are cutting too deep – it’s Somerset and only has a net reduction of 2 per cent. Just as well it isn’t a Labour authority facing swingeing cuts but does the coalition care a hoot about Laboura areas – well we all know the answer to that and anyone in any doubt should look at Pickels record when he was in local government.

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