13 October 2010
Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles today announced the abolition of the 152 Local Area Agreements.
LAAs were introduced in 2004 by the Labour administration. They allowed councils with their local partners to define their own priorities and select 35 of the most appropriate targets from a set of national performance indicators.
But Pickles criticised the bureaucracy surrounding this system. ‘There are 66 pages of guidance telling councils how to report on national indicators,’ he told council leaders and local government professionals at Hammersmith and Fulham town hall this morning.
‘So today I am scrapping the existing Local Area Agreements. Instead of national indicators, I promise you that we will only require one set of data from you.
‘Instead of inspections, we are going to give councils want they want – freedom and power – to be able to take your own decisions on housing and planning. That is the foundation of the Localism Bill, which will be unveiled in a few weeks. Councils will be able to organise themselves, and do whatever they want through a General Power of Competence.’
He also said that next week’s Comprehensive Spending Review would streamline the sources of funding given to councils.
‘We counted 58 funding streams for housing and regeneration and 80 agencies involved in economic growth in their area. By the time the money is coming, the forms have been filled in and the conditions have been satisfied, there is always going to be less money. Where is the incentive to be efficient or imaginative, what is the point of listening to local residents, as opposed to central government?’
Pickles added that he did not want to be an ‘overbearing parent, handing out pocket money and telling you how it should be spent’. He said the Spending Review would bring down the ‘artificial barriers’ that dictate what money should be spent on.
‘We are going to put as much money as possible into just one cheque for councils to work out for themselves how to spend it. But this brings responsibility to protect frontline services, to commission really effective and productive services,’ he added.