Since the then Minister for Local Government and Community Cohesion delivered his speech in February 2006, the Department for Communities and Local Government has published two White Papers and passed two major pieces of legislation, the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 and the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 which clearly demonstrate the actions taken to implement “double devolution”. A key element of this work has been the introduction in 2008 of the new local performance framework, which aimed to lessen the burden and bureaucracy of assessment on local government, by reducing the number of performance indicators on which councils are measured from around 1,200 to 188—and replacing the old Comprehensive Performance Assessment with the new, lighter touch Comprehensive Area Assessment in April last year. We have already reduced the number of inspection days in councils by a third, while the cost of the independent inspection has been reduced by 30 per cent.
We have also increased financial freedom and stability to local government through the first ever three-year finance settlement, reduced ring-fencing, and devolved powers to local authorities, enabling them to create parish councils, make and enforce certain byelaws and increasing their choice in democratic processes such as electoral schemes and leadership style. We have strengthened the opportunity for local people to take action for themselves, promoting the transfer of assets from local government to local people where these could be better run for community benefits, and introducing community contracts, where residents and local agencies agree on the priorities for their area and the action both will take to achieve them. We have funded the Participatory Budgeting Unit to support local authorities in activities to involve local people in prioritising specified budgets and have increased councillors’ powers to raise issues up the agenda of the local authority by introducing the Councillor Call for Action, which enables any councillor to refer an issue to the overview and scrutiny committee. We have also recently passed legislation that will give citizens greater power to hold local authorities to account and influence local services. This includes a new duty for local authorities to respond to petitions from local people; and the extension of scrutiny arrangements, enabling local people, through their councillors, to influence decisions which affect their day to day lives and give them more say over what their council is doing for them and complementing measures to increase engagement and empowerment in key local services.
The “Strengthening Local Democracy” public consultation last July, and our response published on 5 February, affirms our continuing commitment to principles of devolution at all levels. In addition, “Putting the Front-line first: Smarter Government” published on 9 December sets out how Government will meet new challenges and deliver better public services for lower costs by: driving up standards through strengthening the roles of citizens and civic society; freeing up public services by recasting the relationship between the centre and the front-line and streamlining central Government, saving money through sharper delivery.
I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave him on 1 March 2010, Official Report, column 961W. As part of the comprehensive spending review 2007 £340 million was allocated to the current round of performance reward grant funding.
This Department has published guidance on the operation of the reward scheme; it is available on the Department's website: