Local Democracy Bill passed

After a marathon third reading debate in the Commons yesterday the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill was passed.  It now goes briefly back to the House of Lords, which should be a formality, and is due to receive Royal Assent before the end of the month.   The Bill includes the new duty to promote democracy and the duty to involve, new powers to strengthen overview and scrutiny functions, a duty on local authorities to respond to petitions; and a duty on local authorities to prepare local economic assessments in partnership with statutory partners. The impetus for the Bill comes from Hazel Blears’ empowerment agenda, and the sub national review. The new duties will come into force next April and the government will be issuing guidelines. The LGiU’s Centre for Local Democracy is involved in drawing up some of these guidelines in consultation with local authorities. I will be urging that these should be light touch, and that as with any new duties, they should not lead to unnecessary bureaucracy or costs, or constrain the freedoms of local authorities. The Conservatives have been critical of the Bill and Caroline Spelman has indicated that should her party win the next election, they may reverse or repeal some elements, however any such changes would require a further legislative process and take some time. A full briefing on the Bill is available to councillors and staff in LGiU member councils or other associate members.

    1. Hilary Kitchin says:

      We are expecting the Bill to receive Royal Assent this week, and those who are interested can find a copy of the new Act on the HMSO website when it is published: http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts.htm

      This isn’t really the right forum for more detailed advice, but do write to me at my email address.

    2. Emily says:

      A few questions now that the final text has been agreed

      1. where can I get a copy of the full text
      2. do we have any more idea when royal assent will be?
      3. Am I right in thinking the only posts that should be politically restricted when it comes into force are Chief Officers or those that involve

      “(a) giving advice on a regular basis to the authority themselves, to any committee or sub-committee of the authority or to any joint committee on which the authority are represented;

      or

      (b) speaking on behalf of the authority on a regular basis to journalists or broadcasters.”

    3. Hilary Kitchin says:

      The removal of political restrictions based on salary is an important move, and one we are particularly proud of, as the Government based its amendment on one originally promoted by LGiU.

      The commencement agenda provides for this provision to come into force two months following the day on which the Bill is passed. We don’t know exactly when that will be yet as the Bill has still to go through its final stages in the Lords. But it will be early January if all is completed by the end of October.

      We are looking at the practical implications: it should be the end of the blanket ban for officers earning a certain level of salary (restrictions will remain for those in posts specified in the legislation or who hold sensitive posts) and local authorities may need to take action once the legislation comes into force.

      We will be briefing LGiU affiliates about this shortly

    4. Emily says:

      The bill also removes the automatic political restriction of posts above a certain grade.

      Does anyone know if this provision comes into force on royal assent or in April 2010?

      Also what if anything will happen in practice to prevent political restricion continuting to appear as a standard clause in job descriptions/contracts?

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