England & Wales

Delayed financial settlement and today’s other top local stories

Localism Bill delayed again. CLG is turning into the government’s equivalent of the Mad Hatter. First, it’s been announced that the Localism Bill will be late. Andy Sawford, our Chief Executive, reckons that it will be the New Year (although there is still a glimmer of hope that it will emerge on Wednesday). The LGiU’s Dan Garfield reckons that a date in the New Year could mean that the Bill won’t get Royal Assent until the Autumn. He predicts a rocky ride in the Lords for a “portmanteau” Bill with over 200 clauses covering a large number of contentious issues including planning, elected mayors and the devolution of powers to communities. Second, the local government budget settlement has been delayed. It now looks like it will be 13 December. A delayed financial settlement won’t make the toughest round of financial planning any easier for councils. There will be little more than 15 weeks between the government’s announcement of authority-by-authority grant totals and the start of the new financial year.

Localism Bill: The five-year plan. Andy’s commented on the substance of the Localism Bill in the MJ. He said that “instinctively, I like the GPC idea. But the real question is what will councils choose to do with it? Will they seek to extend their activities when they are thinking about cuts? If so, how are councils to fund any extra activities?”

At this rate it would take 140 years for every school to become an academy. Fiona Millar has a piece on the Local Schools Network blog that follows up on John Fowler’s piece earlier this week. She points out that “some local authorities have established already that the sums being offered to schools to opt out far outweigh the amount that should be recouped from the local authority”. It might therefore get tricky for the DCSF to continue to offer schools financial incentives.

A late financial settlement. The conventional wisdom is that the Localism Bill, and the new freedoms that it gives councils, will help councils deliver the savings required of them. Tony Travers, however, has argued that the Decentralisation and Localism Bill will add extra costs. He’s right that setting up elected police commissioners, directly elected mayors and neighbourhood planning won’t be cheap.

Videoing council meetings revisited: the limits of openness in a transparent council. Open data champion Chris Taggart was ejected from a meeting at Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead for filming a council meeting. He was responding to a comment from Cllr Liam Maxwell who said he “didn’t see why you couldn’t” film meetings at his council. The LGiU would probably say that it’s healthy for councils to make their debates as public as possible. We’d agree, however, with the comment on the blog that an e-mail before-hand might have smoothed the road.