After a marathon third reading debate in the Commons yesterday the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill was passed. It now goes briefly back to the House of Lords, which should be a formality, and is due to receive Royal Assent before the end of the month. The Bill includes the new duty to promote democracy and the duty to involve, new powers to strengthen overview and scrutiny functions, a duty on local authorities to respond to petitions; and a duty on local authorities to prepare local economic assessments in partnership with statutory partners. The impetus for the Bill comes from Hazel Blears’ empowerment agenda, and the sub national review. The new duties will come into force next April and the government will be issuing guidelines. The LGiU’s Centre for Local Democracy is involved in drawing up some of these guidelines in consultation with local authorities. I will be urging that these should be light touch, and that as with any new duties, they should not lead to unnecessary bureaucracy or costs, or constrain the freedoms of local authorities. The Conservatives have been critical of the Bill and Caroline Spelman has indicated that should her party win the next election, they may reverse or repeal some elements, however any such changes would require a further legislative process and take some time. A full briefing on the Bill is available to councillors and staff in LGiU member councils or other associate members.
England & Wales