asked Her Majesty's Government:
What instructions and advice are being given to the Environment Agency and its regional organisations concerning changes to their policies and working arrangements following the signing of the central-local concordat on 12 December 2007, both in general and in specific response to the agreement in the concordat (a) “that there should be a presumption that powers are best exercised at the lowest effective and practical level”; (b) that central Government undertakes to “progressively remove obstacles which prevent councils from pursuing their role, including reducing the burden of appraisal and approval regimes, the ring-fencing of funds for specific purposes and the volume of guidance it issues”; and (c) that in relation to the negotiation of new-style local area agreements “this objective will require major changes in behaviour and practice from central government departments, their agencies, government offices, councils and local partners”; and what is the process and timetable for such changes. [HL1916]
The central-local concordat, agreed between the Government and the Local Government Association (LGA), on behalf of local authorities in England, was signed in December last year. It commits both parties to a framework of principles to secure a new relationship between central government and local government. The operation of this agreement will be monitored on a continuing basis, through renewed central-local partnership arrangements.
The noble Lord may be aware that CLG are currently consulting on guidance to local authorities and their partners (including the Environment Agency and NE) on creating strong safe and prosperous communities, specifically relating to new legislation introduced in the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007. The guidance covers local strategic partnerships, sustainable community strategies, the new duty to involve, local area agreements, the revised best value regime and commissioning. The Environment Agency is one of about 20 “named partners” given a new duty under this Act to co-operate with local authorities in identifying the right mix of targets for a draft LAA (based on the agreed evidence-base and longer term priorities in the Sustainable Community Strategy), and helping to deliver those targets.