Name: Local Government (Independence) Bill 2014-15
Type: Private Member’s Bill
Aims: The Bill aims to guarantee the autonomy of local government by giving it a constitutional status, governed by a statutory code, that sees local government and central government as independent and equal partners.
Written into the Bill is a code that will regulate the relationship with central government. Under the code, the powers and responsibilities of local authorities will continue to be prescribed by statute, but local authorities will win financial independence from central government.
There are obvious implications for central government’s ability to use funding pots to push councils in particular directions, as local authorities would have greater power over their funding.
Coverage England only.
Position: The Bill had its first reading on 9 July.
What they're saying: The Bill has been written by Graham Allen MP, who says it’s designed to establish councils as “independent and sovereign entities” and to give them control of their finances. “Political independence for councils would mean nothing without financial independence,” he said.
Sir Merrick Cockell, former Tory chairman of the LGA, has welcomed the Bill, arguing that it makes clear where responsibilities lie. “For too long local people have been left out of the loop on who is running their public services, with it being unclear as to who is accountable for what,” he said. “It’s time this changed.”
David Sparks, the LGA’s new Labour leader, also supports it. Local government is, he said, “today viewed by the centre as a junior, administrative partner to be commanded and patronised”.
The Core Cities Cabinet, comprising the eight biggest cities in England (Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham and Bristol), is another of the Bill’s backers – as is the London mayor, Boris Johnson.
Jon Collins, vice chair of the Core Cities Cabinet, argued that the current system of funding local authorities is “excessively bureaucratic and inefficient, and the reason why the core cities support the principle of fiscal devolution.”
What next? The second reading was supposed to take place on 5 September, but was postponed. A new date for the second reading is yet to be set.