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
The Bill has three main purposes.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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
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
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.
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.
Scottish Parliament Local Government Committee home page:
Local Government in Scotland Bill:
UNISONScotland response to Bill
Dave Watson - firstname.lastname@example.org
@ The P&I Team
14 West Campbell St
Tel 0845 355 0845
Fax 0141-307 2572