Resources and Corporate
Date: 29 January 2007
Classification: For General Release
Title of Report: Local Government White Paper & 2006 Local
Report of: Director of Policy and Communications
Wards Involved: N/A
Policy Context: Management of the Council – the White Paper and
subsequent Bill set out national government policy
for local government. It is important that the City
Council is aware of the challenges and
opportunities offered by government policy,
identifies links with the Council’s policies and
programmes and responds appropriately to these.
Financial Summary: There may be some financial implications arising
from the Bill but it is not possible to quantify them
at this stage – further work will be undertaken as
the Bill progresses and its provisions are enacted.
Report Author: Nicola Howe
1.1 This report asks Members to note the contents of the 2006 Local Government
White Paper, and the subsequent Local Government & Public Involvement in
Health Bill 2006 and highlights the implications for Westminster.
1.2 Jo Gordon, Deputy Director & Head of Locality (London North), Government
Office for London (GOL), will present GOL’s perspective on the White Paper
and Bill and answer questions.
2.1 That the Committee note the contents of the report and considers the Council’s
response to the White Paper as set out in section 5.3.
3.1 The Local Government White Paper, ‘Strong and prosperous communities’ was
published in October 2006, following a government consultation programme
over the past eighteen months. Its stated aim was to build on the successes of
local government over the last decade and ‘rebalance the relationship between
central government, local government and local people’, giving local people
and local communities more influence and power to improve their lives.
3.2 The Local Government & Public Involvement in Health Bill, taking forward the
proposals set out in the White Paper, was published on 12 th December 2006. It
will be accompanied in the spring by several pieces of statutory guidance
reflecting the detail of the White Paper. The Bill should be enacted during the
current session of Parliament. The Lyons Report (now expected in the spring)
is likely to have proposals about devolving power and financing.
4. Content of the White Paper and Bill
4.1 This report focuses on the contents of the White Paper because as well as
setting out legislative changes (covered in the Bill) the White Paper also
highlights approaches that the government recommends. The White Paper
therefore gives a broader picture of the government’s vision for local
government. At Appendix B is a brief summary of the White Paper chapters
highlighting the points in the Bill. The key White Paper proposals are:
A new performance framework, cutting the number of national
performance indicators to around 200 and targets to around 50, and
replacing the Comprehensive Performance Assessment with a new
coherent and risk-based inspection regime. (The Bill does not specify an
upper limit for indicators and targets suggesting that in practice the
government may not reduce numbers as drastically as promised);
An increased role for councils as strategic leaders and ‘place shapers’,
including stronger Local Strategic Partnerships, and duties on local
stakeholders to co-operate with the council in these areas;
Local Area Agreements rolled out to all councils and to become key
contracts with central government setting out priorities for improvement;
Commitment to stronger regions, identifying London as leading the way;
Strengthening the executive role with 4-year Leaders or elected Mayors;
An enhanced role for ward Councillors including a new Community Call for
Action, simplified conduct rules and ‘neighbourhood championship’.
Strengthening of overview and scrutiny, requiring key local agencies to
cooperate and have regard to scrutiny recommendations;
Some local devolution of power – key points are making bye-laws without
Secretary of State approval, easier creation of parish councils and
encouragement to put in place neighbourhood arrangements;
Encouragement to make community cohesion a core local policy; and
The need for delivering efficiency gains through smarter procurement,
better commissioning of services and competition is stressed.
4.2 Appendix A sets detailed information on the implications for Westminster
5 Implications for Westminster - Summary
5.1 Overall the White Paper gives a positive message about the government’s
recognition of the unique and valuable role of local government, its intention to
devolve power to local authorities and to take a proportionate response to
monitoring and inspection. It is a first step and does not promise the level of
devolution of power which local authorities have been lobbying for nor does it
allow excellent authorities such as Westminster additional powers and
freedoms but it is a welcome new start. The Bill retreats from White Paper
aspirations in several areas – e.g. limiting national performance targets.
5.2 Neither the White Paper nor the Bill contain any proposals on local government
funding as this will await the outcome of the Lyons review – current indications
are that information on the conclusions of Lyons will now not be available until
spring 2007. The Local Government Association’s (LGA) principal concern is
that the Bill allows the Secretary of State to impose restructuring on two tier
councils. Other local government associations have highlighted the very limited
devolution of power and a lack of justification for the changes to the executive.
5.3 It is suggested that the Council’s response to the White Paper and Bill should
have the following elements – the City Council:
Welcomes the positive message on devolution expressed in the White
Paper but notes that the Bill does not in fact offer a significant devolution
of powers to local authorities;
Notes that the White Paper has no proposals on local government
finance and regrets that the White Paper/Bill and Lyons Review have
proceeded separately when the resourcing and responsibilities of local
government are inextricably linked;
Does not support the further changes to executive arrangements as
they are unnecessary and restrictive but welcomes the strengthening of
the scrutiny function and would like to see scrutiny powers extended
more widely over local service providers;
Does not support the voluntary extension of parishes to London as
these will inevitably make local government more complex and be more
expensive than locally-developed neighbourhood arrangements within
Has concerns about the government’s approach to regional
government as set out in the new GLA Bill and the strengthening of
GOL’s role and considers that regional governance should be focussed
around a single, accountable body.
Would like to work with the government and Audit Commission on
developing various elements of the new performance regime; and
Is already taking forward good practice in a number of areas including
the new neighbourhoods approach, greater business efficiency, strong
partnership working and citizen engagement.
Appendix A – Detailed comments on the contents of the Local Government White
Appendix B – Summary of the Local Government White Paper
Lead officer: Director of Policy & Communications
Report author: Nicola Howe, Policy Manager
firstname.lastname@example.org / 02076413384
The following background papers are available on request:
Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Bill 2006
Strong and prosperous communities: the Local Government White Paper 2006 –
Department for Communities & Local Government
Local Government Association briefings on the White Paper and Bill
Detailed comments on the content of the White Paper and Bill - Appendix A
1.1 More detailed information on the implications for Westminster are set out under
the following headings :
Neighbourhoods and localism
Better engagement with local people
1.2.1 Key proposals are changes to the statutory executive arrangements and
strengthening of the scrutiny function. Councils will have to choose between (a)
a directly elected Mayor, (b) a directly elected executive or (c) an indirectly
elected Leader, all with a four year term and enhanced powers to set executive
terms of reference.
1.2.2 There is little evidence of public appetite for change following the major
alteration to governance arrangements required by the Local Government Act
2000 and the comprehensive consultation that took place at that point. It is not
clear why there is no fourth option to retain the current arrangements,
especially if a council has high public satisfaction levels.
1.2.3 The option closest to Westminster’s current arrangements is the indirectly
elected leader model. It does not appear that councils will have to undertake
exhaustive consultation before amending their structure but clearly even the
change to an indirectly elected leader will require additional work.
1.2.4 Overview & Scrutiny Committees will be specifically empowered to consider
matters relating to local public service providers and the actions of key public
bodies ‘insofar as their actions relate to the functions or service delivery within
an authority’. Those bodies will have to respond formally to O & S requests for
information and recommendations. Committees will be encouraged to focus on
strategic and neighbourhood issues.
1.2.5 Strengthening scrutiny powers is very positive although it is not clear that some
of the bodies Westminster has successfully scrutinised such as the Post Office
and Thames Water would be covered – it would be helpful if the Bill or any
subsequent statutory guidance defines local partner organisations more widely
or specifies local service providers such as utilities companies. Councils should
have maximum freedom to set scrutiny programmes that reflect the local
situation rather than having to scrutinise all strategic documents and policies.
1.2.6 More local control of the standards framework and a relaxation of the position
on Members conduct in relation to planning and licensing responds to concerns
across local government about the current systems, and are to be welcomed.
1.3.1 The new simplified performance framework covering all outcomes secured
by the Council alone or in partnership is welcome and the Council would be
keen to work jointly with the government and Audit Commission to develop and
test elements of the new framework. The Council has long argued for a
reduction in the number of national performance indicators and targets so this
proposal is positive and we would want to maintain pressure as the Bill has no
upper limit set on numbers of targets. It is absolutely crucial that the
government maintains its commitment to fewer and meaningful targets – the
White Paper already suggests new mandatory targets around climate change.
1.3.2 The Council has developed an innovative Local Area Agreement with locally
identified priorities and it is important for successful local authorities to have as
much ‘space’ as possible for local outcomes and indicators as opposed to
1.3.3 The new assessment regime, the Comprehensive Area Assessment,
replaces the CPA, Children’s Services Joint Area Review and social care
ratings. This simpler overall assessment of performance is very sensible, and
should reduce the cost of inspection to the council as well as being easier for
residents to understand. The CAA will include an annual risk judgement, a
Direction of Travel score and a Use of Resources judgement. The Council has
some concerns about how the government will implement these and is working
with the Local Government Association on this.
1.3.4 A reduced programme of automatic inspections and emphasis on inspection
based on risk will be very welcome but local government will need to watch the
situation to ensure the inspection burden does actually lessen. The change to
the Best Value duty (away from mandatory plans and reviews to a focus on
citizens involvement in service delivery) supports Westminster’s current
1.4 Neighbourhoods and localism
1.4.1 The proposals to strengthen councils neighbourhood approach is very much in
line with the Council’s new neighbourhood programme. In particular, the
expanded role of ward Members reflects Westminster’s agenda closely. Our
programme at the moment does not include devolved budgets but this could be
considered as it develops. Similarly we are not providing neighbourhood
charters but will be looking at annual ward reports to constituents which with
our new neighbourhood information system will show how the Council
responds to local needs.
1.4.2 There is little evidence that Westminster residents are keen to establish
parishes (a new power for London boroughs) and the neighbourhood
arrangements could, in the long term, deal with similar issues to those
managed by parishes if the demand is there. It is obvious that the introduction
of parishes means a further tier of local government which inevitably will
increase the complexity of local governance from residents’ perspective, have
additional costs and is bound to involve additional bureaucracy. This is an area
where the City Council could state that it does not support the change. The
relaxation of the requirement for Secretary of State approval for bye-laws is
welcome and will help the Council respond quickly to emerging local
1.4.3 The government is keen to encourage community management and
ownership of assets. Tenants already manage estate community facilities
and local users are often critical to driving improvement of environmental
assets. However value for money and the representativeness and stability of
groups would need to be carefully considered if the community ownership
approach was extended. The White Paper also advocates more
neighbourhood management and Westminster has a national pathfinder pilot in
Church Street as well as supporting neighbourhood management in the other
1.5 Partnership working
1.5.1 All unitary councils will have to enter into Local Area Agreements (LAA). New
duties and guidance will strengthen Local Strategic Partnerships (LSPs) and
LAAs by requiring various public agencies to be involved in them. This will
reinforce the Westminster City Partnership as the leading local partnership and
hopefully will ensure that government agencies are fully engaged in our LAA.
1.5.2 There are other local bodies that it would have been useful to require to work
with us including NHS Hospital/Foundation Trusts and housing associations
and this is a point the City Council could lobby on. It is also surprising that the
Bill seems to give the Secretary of State the power to ‘designate’ purely local
LAA targets, meaning that his/her permission will be needed to change targets
that relate to local priorities. We are keen to work with GOL to build on our LAA
experience to minimise bureaucracy.
1.5.3 The government also intends to direct that the Leader chairs the LSP, that
every area has a health and well-being partnership and that lead Cabinet
members link with relevant thematic partnerships – none of these will pose any
problems for Westminster. The City Partnership will be asked in February to
review its operation to ensure it complies with the expected statutory guidance
on LSPs. The White Paper suggests that all partnership arrangements should
have a commissioning focus - Westminster’s LAA has already been recognised
as showing best practice in partnership commissioning.
1.5.4 The Local Ombudsman’s powers are to be extended so he can investigate
where functions are delivered jointly or through partnership. This may require
some review of partnerships’ arrangements around complaints, depending on
advice that the Ombudsman is expected to issue soon.
1.5.5 Guidance will be issued to ensure community strategies and other plans are
prepared with regard to each other and councils will have greater flexibility in
developing plans. Westminster’s City Plan was revised recently using this
pragmatic approach which worked very well. Proposals to simplify the highly
regulated process of developing the Local Development Framework are very
welcome and officers will take advantage of these if the timetable permits.
1.6 Community cohesion
1.6.1 The White Paper’s call for councils to place community cohesion and
integration at the heart of what they do is very much in line with Westminster’s
approach. Community cohesion is a major theme of both One City and the City
Plan and the Leader has recently appointed a lead member for community
cohesion. The WCP held a major conference on cohesion in 2006 and both
Westminster’s Faith Exchange and the Westminster Partnership for Racial
Equality are contributing to tackling cohesion issues.
1.7 Better engagement
1.7.1 Improved engagement with local people is a major theme of the White Paper.
The Council already has some very good practice in relation to innovative
communication, accessible information, consultation and involving people and
this is an area where we could offer advice and ideas to the government.
1.7.2 The new Community Call for Action (CCfA) formalises current practice where
ward members take up issues of concern to their constituents. It seems
somewhat bureaucratic but it unlikely to have an impact in Westminster
because the neighbourhood programme has measures to increase support for
ward members in their ‘local champion’ role including the Area Integration
meetings and extended ‘call-in’ rights to O & S Committees.
1.7.3 The White Paper also suggests local authorities could prepare a local
engagement strategy bringing together local partners consultation and
engagement plans and promoting a coordinated approach. The Council has
recently put in place arrangements to improve information sharing around
consultation and this could be further developed.
1.8.1 The White Paper emphasises that ambitious efficiency gains will be expected
from local authorities over the coming years, starting with the 2007
Comprehensive Spending Review. To achieve this there must be improved
collaboration across the public sector, greater competition in local government
service markets and more use of business improvement techniques.
1.8.2 Westminster is a leader in this area, particularly in opening services to
competition and market forces and continues to make efficiency gains. The
WorkSmart programme places the council in a good position to address this
although as a local authority which has already made significant progress,
achieving significant new gains may be more challenging for Westminster than
for less efficient councils. The Council’s new ‘procurement platform’ which will
improve the way the business is transacted from April 2007 is entirely in line
with the White Paper’s emphasis on e-procurement and business practices.
1.8.3 The government expects that with its move to a three year grant formula (2008-
2011) councils will publish three year council tax projections. This expectation
does not take account of realities at local level such as unfunded pressures,
unplanned events (for example 7/7), the development of neighbourhood
agendas or local elections. As part of the 2006/07 budget the Council identified
an indicative working assumption for 2007/08 council tax levels.
1.9.1 The White Paper chapter on ‘Strong cities, strategic regions’ makes few firm
proposals, deferring to a review on regional economic development which will
feed into the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review. It does however identify
economic development, spatial planning, managing housing supply and
demand and culture as key areas for sub-national working. The Bill does not
address regional powers and arrangements at all.
1.9.2 It is implied that London is a leader in regional working as it already has a
strong structure with the Mayor and Greater London Authority. Hopefully some
of the lobbying the Council is undertaking around the extension of Mayoral
powers including clarity about strategic responsibilities, appropriate sub-
regional groupings and the need for the Mayor to collaborate more positively,
will influence the government’s wider thinking on regions.
1.9.3 The City Council has already pointed out the contradiction and overlap inherent
in both strengthening and extending the role of the Government Office for
London and extending the powers of the GLA. It runs counter to the
government’s commitment to local devolution to put such emphasis on a
stronger regional tier.
1.9.4 Multi-Area Agreements (MAAs) between different councils are identified as one
way to promote regional working. The Council already has in place a range of
partnerships that cross borough boundaries. MAAs could offer opportunities to
build on existing arrangements but care would need to be taken to minimise
1.10 In addition there are a number of other specific proposals to be noted:
New Local Involvement Networks (Links) will be set up replacing Patients
Forums. These will facilitate the involvement of local people in and
consultation on local care services and may refer issues to the relevant
overview and scrutiny committees.
In relation to planning a more proactive role in managing housing supply is
envisaged, councils will be pivotal in achieving sustainable development
and the executive will be able to determine significant planning applications.
1.11 Overall the White Paper promises more than the Bill delivers. Westminster is
well-positioned in already taking forward many of the approaches in the White
Appendix B – Summary of the White Paper on Local Government
The new White Paper on local government, Strong and prosperous communities, is in
two volumes, with the main proposals for change in volume one, and volume two
containing thematic chapters on: Community safety, Health and well-being,
Vulnerable people, Children, young people and families, Economic development,
housing and planning, Climate change, and the Third Sector. This notes summarises
the main changes proposed in volume one.
Those points now included in the draft Bill are indicated by a (B).
The White Paper's introduction sets a context for the proposals which follow. It
emphasises that public services have improved since 1997, and for that to continue,
councils, their partners, and local communities, need to be given more power to shape
services and communities. It states that: 'Since 1997 local government has made
huge progress in terms of its performance and reputation.' It stresses that the
proposals in the White Paper are based on the experience of the best local
Community involvement, partnership and leadership are important themes in the
Responsive services and empowered communities
Service improvement needs to be driven by individual choice and community
involvement in decision-making. Specific proposals are:
Choice in local services should be extended where possible, and illustrations
are given from existing developments in care of under-fives, choice-based
letting for tenants, and individual budgets for social care.
There will be reform of Best Value requirements on the existing duty to consult,
extended to include promotion of wider public information, consultation,
involvement in decision-making, and devolution of service delivery (B). Flexible,
local approaches will be encouraged and examples of good practice are given.
There will be new statutory guidance on this.
There will be more emphasis on reporting performance and other service
All councils are encouraged to introduce a systematic approach to how they
deal with public petitions.
Community Call for Action arrangements will be introduced to formalise the
right of local people to raise local concerns with their ward councillor on local
government matters and issues covered by partnerships within which the
council is engaged. This approach is already included in the current Police and
Justice Bill, on community safety issues. Councillors will act as
gatekeepers, and will be able to reject vexatious complaints. If the matter
cannot be dealt with in other ways, it could be referred to the council's overview
and scrutiny committee(s),which can require a response from relevant public
There will be some improvements to the processes of the Local Government
Neighbourhood management, and neighbourhood charters that set out service
standards and priorities are encouraged.
The government is also interested in community management and ownership
of assets, and will set up a review of how this can be promoted. In the
meantime there will be a fund to support refurbishment of buildings where the
council will transfer these to community management.
Steps will be taken to promote tenant management.
The process to create new town and parish councils will be simplified,
devolving this to local government, rather than requiring government
involvement. They may be called neighbourhood or community councils.
Councils will be able to consider other forms of community governance as part
of this process. London will be given the same rights to establish parish
councils as other places.
The government will seek to rationalise arrangements to support community
Effective, accountable and responsive local government
This section emphasises the importance of local government leadership and proposes
a range of changes to council constitutions:
Legislation will change the available executive options to three: a directly
elected mayor; a leader elected by the council but who must have a four year
term of office; a new model of a directly elected executive (ie each member of
the cabinet directly elected by the public). (B)
The mayor or leader will hold all the executive powers, will be able to decide
whether or how to delegate them, will appoint cabinet members and allocate
Councils will be able to move to a mayoral constitution without a referendum,
although there will still be powers for the public to petition for a referendum.
District councils with a population below 85,000 with a modified committee
system will not be required to change.
Overview and scrutiny powers will be extended over key partner organisations
also covered by the duty to co-operate with Local Area Agreements (discussed
later) and will be engaged with the Community Calls to Action. (B)
Councils will be enabled, but not required, to move to a system of all-out
elections. This will include metropolitan councils, which are currently required
to elect by thirds.
Single member wards will be an option, but not a requirement.
The government will set up a review of the incentives and barriers to serving on
councils and seek ways to promote greater diversity and more candidates to
put themselves forward. Capacity building for councillors will be supported.
Councils will gain powers to enact byelaws, without Secretary of State
confirmation, and enforce them through fixed penalty notices. (B)
There will be legislation to simplify the Standards framework, to create a more
locally based regime, and amend the rules on personal and prejudicial
Strong cities, strategic regions
This section discusses the government's approach to economic development,
particularly city regions. However, decisions are deferred, pending a report feeding
into the Comprehensive Spending Review. Evidence such as the government's State
of the Cities research is reviewed, which has emphasised the need to devolve powers
to enhance economic development. Specific proposals are:
Continuing review of the need to improve sub-national working, particularly on
regeneration and economic growth.
Reform of Passenger Transport Authorities and Executives, with more council
representation, to enable a more coherent approach to transport in the major
Encourage development of Multi-Area Agreements (like a LAA between several
authorities) between authorities and partners, to support cross-boundary
collaboration, and other local partnership arrangements such as boards of
Where there is local support, to encourage stronger leadership models such as
Local government as a strategic leader and place-shaper
This section reviews the council's community leadership and place-shaping role and
puts forward proposals to develop Local Strategic Partnerships (LSPs) and Local Area
Agreements (LAAs). Specific proposals are:
There will be a duty on councils to prepare a Local Area Agreement in
consultation with others, alongside the Sustainable Community Strategy, and a
duty of named partners to co-operate in agreeing targets in the LAA. (B)
Named partners include: police, probation, Youth Offending Teams, Primary
Care Trusts , Learning and Skills Councils, Health and Safety Executive, Fire
and rescue authorities, Passenger Transport Authorities, Environment Agency,
Natural England, Regional Development Agencies, National Park Authorities,
the Broads Authority and waste disposal authorities.
There will be an expectation that council leaders and portfolio holders play a
strong role in LSPs and relevant thematic partnerships.
There will be streamlining of requirements to help integrate the development of
community planning and spatial development plans, including consultation
The government will aim to develop more financial flexibility within LAAs, and
between the four current blocks of LAAs.
A new performance framework
The Paper sets out a new performance framework which aims to reduce the number
of nationally-required targets, providing new opportunities for local accountability.
Specific proposals are:
Elements of Best Value will be changed, sharpening focus on citizen
engagement, and competition, and removing requirements for a Best Value
Performance Plan and Best Value reviews. All parish councils will be exempt
from Best Value requirements. (B)
The government will set out a single set of about two hundred national
indicators for all local partners. Local improvement targets will then be agreed
through LAAs, with around 35 improvement targets, plus Department for
Education and Skills targets in LAAs. (Not included in the Bill). There will then
be flexibility to include additional local targets.
Councils will report annually on LAAs. This information will be fed to the Audit
Commission and other inspectorates, and inform an annual review of the area's
performance co-ordinated by the Government Office for the Region.
Changes to inspection will include, from 2009, development of a
Comprehensive Area Assessment (building on CPA), based on a combination
of risk assessment, largely risk-triggered assessment, and audit. The Audit
Commission will continue to publish an annual Direction of Travel judgement
for each council, scored for comparability between councils. There will also be
a Use of Resources judgement.
The government will agree with the LGA a national improvement strategy to
tackle poor performance. National intervention powers will be retained.
Efficiency - transforming local services
This section focuses on the need to drive efficiency in use of resources, including new
technology. Proposals include:
Ambitious efficiency gains to be required as part of the 2007 Comprehensive
Ensuring administrative boundaries do not act as a barrier to service
improvement and efficiency.
Promoting business improvement techniques and greater contestability in
Government will publish three-year council tax projections, and provide expert
support to councils and their partners to meet efficiency challenges.
This section emphasises the need to provide more specific support to councils and
their partners in addressing community cohesion issues. Work which has already
been done to strengthen legislation against discrimination is emphasised. Proposals
Providing support for councils which wish to include cohesion issues in
community strategies and LAAs.
Providing new guidance on how overview and scrutiny can support community
Government will support local establishment of forums on extremism where
Government will encourage the Commission on Integration and Cohesion to
provide detailed plans on promotion of cohesion.