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Cross-boundary Local Authority Co-ordination

Volume 594: debated on Monday 16 March 2015

1. What guidance he provides for local authorities on co-ordination across local authority boundaries. (908047)

We have abolished Labour’s top-down regional strategies, which built nothing but resentment, and replaced them with the Localism Act 2011, which asks councils to work together and co-operate on cross-boundary matters.

May I ask my right hon. Friend to have a word with West Sussex and Surrey county councils about the importance of constant liaison on roadworks? Is he aware that in East Grinstead, which has suffered terrible inconvenience for several years as a result of roadworks, it is becoming impossible to ensure that there is a free passage for cars at all times?

My right hon. Friend has made a very reasonable point. I will of course liaise with both council leaders, and will send them a copy of Hansard. The duty not just to consult but to co-operate is immensely important, and most local authorities co-operate very harmoniously. They have a responsibility to work together: after all, the people for whom they are working together are the general population who elect them.

As the Secretary of State knows, individual local authorities contribute to the Prevent strategy, but places of worship and community groups extend beyond local authority boundaries. How will he ensure that there is proper co-ordination between councils?

That is a very good question. The duty to co-operate was originally designed to apply to planning and to housing numbers, but it clearly has a much wider application in the context of both economic development and social policy. Any sensible authority—and metropolitan authorities in particular, given their proximity to each other—must recognise that religious establishments and community groups do not necessarily correspond with municipal boundaries.

Ellar Ghyll tip is just inside the Leeds city council boundary, but is next to Menston, in my constituency, and is heavily used by its residents. The council is happy to continue the existing reciprocal arrangement with Bradford council, but Bradford has refused to do so. That means that my constituents will have to pass a tip that is next door to them to visit one that is a number of miles away, and it will undoubtedly lead to more fly-tipping. Will the Secretary of State intervene and knock some heads together in order to reverse the ridiculous decision of the Labour council in Bradford?

I was in Leeds and Bradford on Thursday, and, had I known about it, I would have looked in on that tip.

It is immensely important to recognise the purpose of this arrangement, which is to ensure that members of the public receive a decent service. When I was leader of Bradford council, I enjoyed a very harmonious relationship with Leeds, and I hope that that relationship can be quickly restored.

In recent months I have been contacted by more than 20 parents, all of them with children who have been housed in the borough of Slough by other local authorities because of the workings of benefit caps and the like. Parents are having real problems getting their children to school, using family networks and so on. What will the Secretary of State do to help them, and help local authorities to communicate better with each other about families who are dumped from other boroughs?

I am sure that the right hon. Lady is familiar with the authorities in question. I urge her to contact them, and try to persuade them to co-operate. It is obviously not satisfactory for children to have to travel large distances to school. The whole point of localism is that local people should be able to make decisions, and, surely to goodness, it must be possible for two local authorities to reach a sensible decision without the Government having to intervene.