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‘Bossy guidance to councils is costing government £1.5bn’

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By Lucy Phillips

6 May 2011

Whitehall could save £1.5bn a year by slashing ‘unnecessary and inappropriate’ statutory duties on councils, according to the Local Government Association.

Responding to the government’s consultationon local government statutory duties, the LGA has called for 50 duties to be immediately scrapped and for many more to be reviewed. It is also seeking the removal of the majority of statutory guidance notes and ministerial consent for minor activities.

Eliminating such work would reduce the administrative burden on central government departments by 20%, saving £1.5bn a year, the LGA claims.

LGA chair Baroness Margaret Eaton said: ‘The elimination of statutory guidance notes and a root-and-branch prune of unnecessary duties would not only ease the costly red-tape burden being placed on local authorities, it would help government departments avoid unnecessary policy work, saving them up to £1.5bn each year.’

The requirement to publish planning notices in local papers (costing councils £40m a year) and to seek ministerial consent to use local traffic signs are among the things they are calling to be scrapped.

Eaton added: ‘The government has an opportunity to completely revise the existing culture of excessive bureaucratic oversight.    

‘We are not seeking to abolish the statutory duty to provide core services and protect the vulnerable. However, some of the duties currently placed on town halls are perverse, unnecessary and run contrary to localism. Bossy guidance telling councils how to collect rent, costly duplication in the collection and reporting of data, and confusing and contradictory policy guidance increase the administrative burden and make it harder for councils to deliver the services people want in the way they want them.’

The consultation closed on April 25. A spokeswoman from the Department for Communities and Local Government said it would respond to the submissions in due course.