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Local Authorities (Administrative Burden)

Volume 513: debated on Thursday 15 July 2010

20. What steps he is taking to reduce the administrative burden placed on local authorities by central Government. (8520)

We have already scrapped the comprehensive area assessment and regional spatial strategies, as well as removing ring-fencing from more than £1 billion of local government spending. We are currently inviting local government to identify the statutory guidance, legislation and regulations that it thinks should be removed, and we will go much further by introducing a decentralisation and localism Bill later in the year.

One consequence of reducing the administrative burden on local councils and freeing them to take more decisions locally will be to allow them to offer different levels of services from their neighbours. Does my hon. Friend agree that far from being a bad thing, that will allow good councils to differentiate themselves from bad councils and allow local council tax payers the ultimate decision on the type of council they desire?

Freedom for local authorities to respond to the priorities and needs of their residents is absolutely a good thing and is a top priority of this Government.

But what does the Minister say to local authorities such as mine that face a larger burden of in-year cutbacks than neighbouring authorities? What does he say about the additional burdens that he has put on to them by forcing them to cut previously agreed budgets with voluntary sector organisations and local services, meaning more expensive ways of managing their budgets?

First, the hon. Lady forgets the financial situation that we inherited—that is fundamental. Secondly, because we have removed ring-fencing and reduced the percentage of ring-fenced funding, we have made sure that local authorities have more flexibility in how they save money. Thirdly, despite our dire financial inheritance, we have ensured that no local authority would have to make a reduction of more than 2%.

Order. We cannot have these sudden interventions when not expected and not in order, however frustrated people feel—and they do.