LGA pushes for finance reforms

7 Jun 01
The Local Government Association has proposed setting up an independent commission to examine the long-term future of local government finance and agree 'a fair deal' for councils.

08 June 2001

LGA leaders want to see finance reform move up the political agenda and are hopeful that any changes will lead to greater autonomy for councils, which they say is crucial for their ability to make decisions locally.

The suggestion was made in a 'wish list' of measures, published by the organisation on June 2, which it would like to see adopted by the new government. The document, Ideas that stand out, solutions that work, sets out three proposals for each of the 25 ministers whose portfolios touch on local government.

The proposal for a commission, addressed both to the local government minister and the chief secretary to the treasury, says: 'Only 25% of council revenue is raised locally, which undermines local democracy, compounded by the steadily increasing proportion of resources distributed through specific grants.

'Establish, with us, an independent commission to explore how to develop a local government finance system that is accountable and gives councils the freedom to meet local needs.'

Speaking before ministerial appointments had been announced, LGA director of finance Neil Kinghan said the commission would examine issues such as the balance between centrally and locally raised finance, and the effects of specific grants on local democracy and autonomy.

But he said its value would depend on the attitudes of the politicians appointed to lead on local government issues. 'We will have to see who they are and what their views are, the ministers may welcome it or they may not be interested,' he said. 'But we have mentioned it in this document because the commission remains a good idea.'

Other proposals include streamlining the Best Value regime to reduce bureaucracy and reforming the inspection process to ensure it leads to concrete changes.

LGA chair Sir Jeremy Beecham said the proposals were a mix of fresh thinking and innovative work already happening in individual councils.

He added: 'The launch of a new administration is an ideal opportunity for local government to set the agenda for the communities they serve.'

More than 5,700 new cases of skin cancer are being reported each year, making the disease one of the most rapidly increasing forms of cancer in England and Wales. Scientists blame an increase in foreign summer holidays and poor use of sunscreen. Figures from the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) show that some malignant cancer rates have more than trebled since 1971.

University chiefs are worried that rising levels of student debt could deter young people from seeking a university place. Diana Warwick, the chief executive of Universities UK, the group that represents the heads of colleges, said: 'I am thinking of those from the poorest backgrounds who are the focus of government and university targets for expanding access to higher education.'

The Ministry of Agriculture has denied that there is a significant increase in drug residues found in food. The Soil Association, which advocates organic farming, claimed that 20% of chicken meat samples and 10% of the eggs it tested showed traces of dangerous drugs. But Maff said that 99.5% of samples taken last year were residue-free.

The Cardiff Bay barrage was opened to the public on June 1, though some projects within the £200m redevelopment scheme, which has cost double the original estimates, have yet to be built. But Cardiff Lord Mayor Russell Goodway said: 'I am confident that we will be able to secure the swimming pool, the snowdrome and the arena.'

A team at Southampton University has been given £205,000 by the Food Standards Agency to discover why peanuts can trigger severe allergies. In the UK , there have been up to ten deaths a year in recent times.

Ireland's Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, has been awarded CIPFA's President's Medal. Mike Weaver, CIPFA's current president, presented the award on May 30 in recognition of Ahern's 'outstanding commitment and unique contribution to the development of the institute's work in the Republic of Ireland'. Ahern is a CIPFA member and honorary president of the Republic of Ireland branch. Also present at the ceremony were the Institute's chief executive, Steve Freer, and Declan McDonagh, chairman of the Republic of Ireland branch.


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