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Public Accounts Commission

Volume 699: debated on Thursday 22 July 2021

The hon. Member for South Norfolk, representing the Public Accounts Commission was asked—

NAO Report on Local Government and Net Zero: Government Response

What the planned timescale is for a response by the Government to the National Audit Office’s report on local government and net zero in England, published in July 2021. (903180)

The National Audit Office produced an important report recently considering how effectively central Government and local authorities in England are collaborating on net zero. The report emphasised the need for clear roles and responsibilities and for ensuring that local authorities have the right resources and skills to tackle net zero. The question of when the Government will respond is a matter for Government, but I can tell my hon. Friend that my right hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Philip Dunne), the Chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee, told me this morning that his Committee will be taking evidence on this National Audit Office report on Wednesday 8 September.

The National Audit Office report concludes that there are serious weaknesses in the Government’s approach to working with over 350 local councils in England on decarbonisation owing to a lack of clarity on the council’s overall roles, piecemeal funding and defuse accountabilities. Will my hon. Friend encourage the Public Accounts Committee to also scrutinise the Government’s response to this important report when it is eventually published?

As my hon. Friend will know, the Public Accounts Committee approves the NAO’s strategy and budgets and does not involve itself in individual reports, but he will also know that the National Audit Office report recommends that central Government carry out an analysis of the net zero funding available to local authorities, and it has highlighted that, despite the budget available going from £74 million in 2019-20 to £1.2 billion in 2020-21, the approach remains fragmented, so I hear what my hon. Friend says.