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About the P&I Team Briefings Home | Responses | PFI Index | Policy Guide
Local Government Bill Briefing No 45
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Local Government Bill Briefing No 45

The Bill was introduced on 16 May 2002 with the Local Government Committee designated lead committee. For the Executive the Bill is central to its "local government modernisation agenda", enabling the delivery of better, more responsive public services.

The Bill has three main purposes.

  1. Provides a duty to secure Best Value in local government service provision replacing the previous regime of CCT. The Executive defines Best Value as the pursuit of continuous improvement in all aspects of Local Authority functions. A Stage 2 amendment to the Bill ensures that this means a continuous improvement in "outcomes" too.
  2. Introduces a statutory basis for Community Planning . This is to "secure greater engagement from communities in the planning and delivery of services and to secure effective joint working between agencies in promoting the well-being of communities". The belief is more effective partnership working will result in better use of public money.
  3. A power to advance well-being. This is a wide-ranging power designed to allow Local Authorities to work in more innovative and flexible ways in the interests of their communities.

Stage One Local Government Committee Report

The Local Government Committee produced the Stage One Report on 13 September 2002.

Scope of Best Value

The Committee agreed with representations from COSLA and the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers (SOLACE) that the Best Value provisions should be the same for all public bodies in Scotland. Given the provisions for Community Planning it was felt that all partners should be subject to common guidance, as this section does place statutory duties on other public bodies.

Bill Structure

The Report notes that COSLA, SOLACE and a number of councils commented on the structure of the Bill. They argued that the Bill gives the powers of Well Being which will be delivered effectively by Community Planning and efficiently through Best Value. They wanted the Bill re-ordered to reflect Well Being as the outcome and Community Planning and Best Value as the tools. The Committee investigated but sees no reason for reordering at this point.

Local Government Finance

The Report welcomes the commitment by the Deputy Minister for Finance and Public Services to introduce an amendment at Stage 2 of the Bill to repeal the current (Section 94) borrowing consent system and replace it with a "prudential" system of borrowing.

Stage Two - Amendments

The Local Government Committee is currently considering amendments to the Bill at Stage 2. At its meeting on 5 November an Executive amendment proposed by the Committee's Stage 1 Report to ensure Best Value refers to sustainable development was agreed, along with technical amendments. Amendments proposed by the Equal Opportunities Committee on ensuring contractors and others working with councils meet equal opportunities policies, and on ensuring local authorities conduct equal pay audits in line with Executive agencies and NDPBs, were lost. The Minister did give a commitment that equal pay audits should be explicitly promoted in Best Value guidance and said he would work with COSLA and the Equal Opportunities Commission on this.

Statutory Guidance

The Bill allows for Ministers to issue Statutory Guidance relating to Best Value, Community Planning and the Power to advance Well-Being. The Executive is currently working on drafts of the guidance. UNISON Scotland is consulting members through the Local Government Service Group Executive on its response. The deadline for submissions is 9 December 2002.

The Duty to Secure Best Value

The duty has provisions for high standards, effective management systems, and openness and transparency. UNISON believes there should be more emphasis on quality and effectiveness of service delivery, good employment practice including training and development. We have called for the establishment of a Quality Commission to oversee this.

We agree with the Local Government Committee that there should be more than merely the provision on "the need to meet the equal opportunity requirements", however the Minister argues equality is a reserved matter.

Community Planning Guidance

UNISON welcomes the duty on Local Authorities to facilitate the community planning process by engaging the local community and voluntary organisations. We would like to see trade unions included as crucial partners in the process.

The draft Guidance suggests that Community Planning Partnerships may wish to consider "incorporation". UNISON has real concerns on these proposals. There should be more debate on the consequences of incorporation, and we feel that incorporate would give too much emphasis to private sector values. UNISON wants to see targets and monitoring of equality, employment standards and training included as well as the targets for performance.

Power of Well Being

Our initial response to the Bill expressed concerns that the "power of general competence" was being diluted by the new term "power of well being". We also believe that the definition of "well being" should be set in legislation and are concerned that Ministers can alter it without reference to Parliament. We have called for the an independent Quality Commission to oversee Best Value and to ensure that quality of service is not sacrificed over efficiency savings.

UNISON welcomes the guidance statement of "no restriction or limitation to the amount of money a local authority can spend". The commitment from the Deputy Finance Minister to lodge an amendment at Stage 2 of the Bill to repeal Section 94 restrictions on council borrowing is good news.

The Bill allows Scottish Ministers to act to amend, repeal or disapply any enactment that prevents or hinders use of the power without needing to wait for an opportunity through legislation. UNISON can see this flexibility enables ministers to amend the definition if local authorities are challenged through judicial review, for example by private companies challenging 'commercial activities'. On the other hand a government of a different persuasion could use this to narrow the application of the power to restrict local authority activities.

 

Action for Branches

  • Check your Authority's position on the Bill.
  • Discuss the issues the Bill raises with your Local Authority.
  • Talk to your MSP about UNISON's views on the Bill get him/her to support us.

 

Further Information:

Scottish Parliament Local Government Committee home page:
http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/official_report/cttee/local.htm

Local Government in Scotland Bill:
http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parl_bus/legis.html#53

UNISONScotland response to Bill
http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/response/lgrespons.html

Contacts list:

Dave Watson - d.watson@unison.co.uk

@ The P&I Team
14 West Campbell St
Glasgow G26RX
Tel 0845 355 0845
Fax 0141-307 2572

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Further Information

Scottish Parliament Local Government Committee home page:
www.scottish.parliament.uk/
official_report/cttee/local.htm

Local Government in Scotland Bill:
www.scottish.parliament.uk/
parl_bus/legis.html#53

UNISONScotland response to Bill
www.unison-scotland.org.uk/
response/lgrespons.html

Contacts list:

Dave Watson -
d.watson@unison.co.uk

@ The P&I Team
14 West Campbell St
Glasgow G26RX
Tel 0845 355 0845
Fax 0141-307 2572