January 2016 – Major Extension of Local Authority Responsibilities Planned
The government is considering devolving responsibility for a wide range of projects and services – such as the administration of attendance allowance to local authorities, according to consultation issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
The DCLG has announced the Government will consider giving more responsibility to councils in England and Wales, to support older people with care needs – including people who, under the current system, would be supported through attendance allowance.
The proposals form part of the Spending Review. It requires local authorities to make efficiency savings, but will allow local government to keep the rates they collect from business and give elected city-region mayors the power to levy a business rates premium for local infrastructure projects – with the support of local business.
It is intended that by the end of the Parliament local government will retain 100% of business rate revenues to fund local services. The Uniform Business Rate will be abolished and any local area will be able to cut business rates to help attract business and create jobs. But elected city-region mayors will also be able to add a premium to business rates to pay for new infrastructure, provided they have the support of the local business community through a majority of business members of their Local Enterprise Partnership.
As part of these reforms, the main local government grant will be phased out and additional responsibilities devolved to local authorities. For example, the government will consider transferring responsibility for funding the administration of housing benefit for pensioners and Transport for Londons capital projects to local government, and will also consult on options to transfer responsibility for funding public health, in addition to the proposals regarding Attendance Allowance.
These changes will need legislation, and the Government will be seeking the earliest possible legislative opportunity. In the meantime, the Government will be developing the parameters of the scheme and the operational delivery details. While the Government argues that this is all about devolution, handing power back to local administrations better able to determine and meet the needs of local communities, many authorities are concerned that this amounts to little more than transferring the responsibilities without the requisite resources needed to deliver. After all, it is these very areas where the Government has failed to control spending in the face of ever increasing demand. Perhaps the bottom line here is if you cannot deliver better services for less, then its best to make it someone elses fault.
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