Letter from Minister Bob Neill in response to article in the Guardian (02 December 2010) about the claims that the Government is piling new duties on local authorities at the same time as demanding massive cuts.
Fewer duties but more power for councils
The Guardian, Thursday 9 December 2010
Deborah Orr says the government is “piling new duties on local authorities” (see ‘On other sites’, top right). In fact we are pushing power downwards and outwards to the lowest possible level - so power is held by local communities, not hoarded at Whitehall.
Where councils were once prisoners of central regulation and inspection, we have unshackled them so they can decide for themselves. We have already cut thousands of central targets, stripped away red tape and abolished the burdensome inspection regime run by the Audit Commission. In the new year we will take an axe to the plethora of statutory duties and regulations imposed on councils.
Yes, there is less money around, but we are handing down more powers and financial freedoms to town halls so they can cope. We have already released an extra £7bn of council funding from Westminster’s grasp and an extra £2.4bn for public health responsibilities so they can spend it where they know it’s needed. The upcoming localism bill will devolve even greater powers to councils and community groups over housing, planning and on local amenities so they won’t have to jump through government hoops.
Councils have more power than they have had for generations, and the only new duty on them is to deliver for the people instead of Whitehall.
Bob Neill MP