For its Second Report, the Committee studied a range of Local Public Spending Bodies (LPSBs) whose common characteristics included the use of taxpayers’ money to provide public services, mainly to local communities, and being subject to special regulation. The Committee’s aim was to promote common standards and expectations for them all, while noting that nothing pointed to any fundamental malaise in any of the sectors examined. The Committee noted that the bodies were not necessarily in the public sector, saying “It is a fact of life that today public services are not provided wholly by the public sector, and that boundaries between sectors may not be entirely clear.”
With this in mind, the Committee set out two fundamental propositions:
- Where a citizen receives a service which is paid for wholly or in part by the taxpayer, then the Government or local authority must retain appropriate responsibility for safeguarding the interests of both user and taxpayer regardless of the status of the service provider.
- Central control of autonomous but centrally funded local bodies should be limited as far as possible to setting policy guidelines and operating boundaries, to ensuring an effective audit framework, and to the effective deployment of sanctions. Government and Parliament should aim to ensure that local mechanisms to influence the activities of local bodies exist, and should give them the support necessary to ensure accountability.
The Report made 50 detailed recommendations about standards of governance, accountability and propriety in further and higher education bodies (including universities), grant- maintained schools, Training and Enterprise Councils (TECs), or in Scotland, Local Enterprise Companies (LECs) and housing associations.