Scrapping Audit Commission 'will save £1.2bn'

8 May 13
Abolition of the Audit Commission will save £1.2bn over ten years, the government said today as plans to scrap the watchdog were confirmed in the Queen’s Speech.

By Richard Johnstone | 8 May 2013

Abolition of the Audit Commission will save £1.2bn over ten years, the government said today as plans to scrap the watchdog were confirmed in the Queen’s Speech.

A total of 20 Bills were announced at today’s State Opening of Parliament. Photo: PA

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said the Local Audit and Accountability Bill included in the speech would create a new regime for local authority audit by enabling councils to appoint their own auditors.

It follows last year's draft Bill, which set out plans to close the commission before April 2015, and the outsourcing of the in-house audit work.

Pickles also confirmed the new Bill will be used to alter the referendum trigger for council tax rises. It will apply the 2% limit to local quangos, such as waste disposal authorities and integrated transport authorities, as well as town halls. This would save taxpayers’ money and give more power to local people, Pickles added.

The Bill is one of 20 announced at today’s State Opening of Parliament. Another measure being introduced is a cap on adult social care costs. first recommended by the Dilnot commission. The Care and Support Bill, which has already been published in draft form, will implement a £72,000 cap to come into effect in 2016.

Plans to create a single flat rate state pension, worth £144 a week, have also been given the green light and will be introduced by a Pensions Bill.

In a foreword to the speech, Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the legislative programme would ‘reward’ people who had worked hard.

‘We will introduce a Bill to cap social care costs, meaning that pensioners do not have to sell their homes to fund their care. A Pensions Bill will also be brought in to create a simple, flat rate pension that encourages saving.’

Moves to restrict immigrants’ access to some public services were also confirmed. It is expected the legislation will seek to restrict free access to the NHS for migrants, and compel landlords to check their tenants' immigration status. This follows Cameron’s pledge earlier this year to restrict migrants’ access to some benefits.

‘We want this country to attract people who will add to our national life – but those who will not should be deterred,’ Clegg and Cameron said. ‘That's why we are going to bring forward an Immigration Bill to clamp down on those from overseas who abuse our public services.’

Two bills needed to build the High Speed 2 rail line between London and Birmingham, and then on to Manchester and Leeds, have also been included in the programme.

A National Insurance Contributions Bill will implement the £2,000 cut in NIC payments set out by Chancellor George Osborne in the Budget in March, while a Rehabilitation Bill aims to cut reoffending through the introduction of payment-by-results contracts in the criminal justice sector.

Responding to the announcements, the Unison trade union said that there was ‘little comfort’ in this programme for the millions of people who had seen their living standards fall since this coalition government came to power.

General secretary Dave Prentis said capping the lifetime cost of care at £72,000 could still force people to sell their homes to find the money. ‘The fairest way forward would be to fund social care through general taxation and provide a national care service, free at the point of need,’ he added.

The think-tank Reform said the programme failed to address major long-term funding issues, including how social care could be funded.

Writing on the Public Finance blog, Reform’s chief economist Patrick Nolan said there were ‘real concerns’ about how the proposed cap on care costs would work.

‘The coalition needs to show it can get a grip on the implementation of these reforms – such as how the deferred payment scheme will work, how local government will meter contributions and what the cap will cover.’

The Local Government Association urged the government to make ‘fixing the financial crisis engulfing adult social care’ a priority.

Chair Sir Merrick Cockell highlighted today's figures from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services which show that local authority funding for adult social care has been cut by £2.7bn since the coalition came to power.

He added: ‘The stark reality is that if such vast sums of money continue to be taken out of the care system it could be in very real danger of collapse.

‘To improve efficiency and protect vital services in the face of on-going cuts to public spending, the entire legislative programme must start the process of radically rewiring the way public services are delivered and paid for.’


The full list of Bills announced today is:

Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Bill

Care Bill

Consumer Rights Bill (draft)

Defence Reform Bill

Deregulation Bill

Energy Bill

EU Approvals Bill

Gambling (licensing and advertising) Bill

High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill

HS2 Hybrid Bill

Immigration Bill

Intellectual Property Bill

Local Audit and Accountability Bill

Mesothelioma Bill

National Insurance Contributions Bill

Northern Ireland Bill

Offender Rehabilitation Bill

Pensions Bill

Wales Bill (draft)

Water Bill


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