• Govt sneaky plans to abolish councils duty to consult could breach international rules

    27th March 2014 | News | Claire
  • 15.4 Repeal of duties relating to consultation or involvement (clause 57)


    Section 3A of the Local Government Act 1999, inserted by section 138 of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007, provides that:

    (1) Where a best value authority considers it appropriate for representatives of local persons (or of local persons of a particular description) to be involved in the exercise of
    any of its functions by being—

    (a) provided with information about the exercise of the function,
    (b) consulted about the exercise of the function, or
    (c) involved in another way,

    it must take such steps as it considers appropriate to secure that such representatives are involved in the exercise of the function in that way.

    A ‘best value authority’ is a local authority in England, defined in section 1 of the 1999 Act.

    Under section 3A(3) of the 1999 Act, these provisions do not apply to police authorities.

    The removal of the requirement to consult regarding local authority functions was addressed in the Draft Deregulation Bill Committee’s pre-legislative scrutiny report:

    We heard from Councillor David Simmonds, of the LGA, that this clause was welcomed as it would “bring an end to some of the tick-box culture that has been
    enforced on local authorities, where there is a need to demonstrate consultation, consultation and consultation again”. He told us that he did not think anything would be
    lost by the repeal, other than the “likelihood of challenge”…..

    Friends of the Earth described consultation as “a core element of a democratic government and one of the main ways that Government can be held to account for their actions”.

    They told us the Government’s justifications for the removal of consultation requirements were “neither satisfactory nor sufficient”.

    The most pressing concern we heard in relation to this clause was the risk of conflict with the Aarhus Convention, which stems from Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration.

    We heard from Essex County Council that the removal of the consultation requirement may mean that the UK falls foul of its international obligations. Friends of the Earth thought that it should be made clear how the obligations in relation to the Aarhus Convention would be discharged.

    Good for Essex County Council!