Local Government Reform

Oral Answers to Questions — Deputy Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 17th November 2004.

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Photo of George Mudie George Mudie Labour, Leeds East 11:30 am, 17th November 2004

If he will make a statement on his plans for reforms in local government.

Photo of John Prescott John Prescott Deputy Prime Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Local Government and the Regions, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

In July I published a discussion document "The future of local government: Developing a 10 year vision". This vision puts local government at the heart of our communities in the years ahead. It also makes clear that both local and central government will need to change to meet the challenges of building sustainable communities in which people want to live.

Photo of George Mudie George Mudie Labour, Leeds East

I thank the Deputy Prime Minister for that answer. In his post-referendum review, will he assure the House that councils will be key deliverers of services and not just enablers, handing out contracts to the private sector? Will he also assure us that such ideas as taking all primary schools or high schools out of direct local government control will not be part of his future plans?

Photo of John Prescott John Prescott Deputy Prime Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Local Government and the Regions, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I can assure my hon. Friend that local authorities are key in developing local and national services. I can also tell him that the extra powers and resources that we have provided will enable them to do that.

Regarding whether the community assets of schools, whether secondary or primary, are directly controlled by the local authority, I assure him that in Leeds and other parts of the country, as he knows, there is an increasing amount of community involvement in the new deals, the new neighbourhood areas, Sure Start and the local strategic partnerships. More than 1 million people are now participating in decisions and sharing community assets. In that sense, the community is enriched by using those assets for the benefit of the community, working with local authorities in creating new services for the citizens in their area.

Photo of Mr Matthew Green Mr Matthew Green Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions, Young People, Non-Departmental & Cross-Departmental Responsibilities

When the Deputy Prime Minister publishes his White Paper on local government reform, will it include details of his planned revaluation of properties and their council tax bands? When will he come clean on that?

Photo of John Prescott John Prescott Deputy Prime Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Local Government and the Regions, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

The hon. Gentleman is aware that we have said that we will keep to the timetable for the revaluation of properties that is set out in legislation. The White Paper will deal with future changes to local government.

Photo of Mr Bill O'Brien Mr Bill O'Brien Labour, Normanton

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the work that he is doing to help local government to sustain services to its communities. Has he any plans to bring into being more town or parish councils with a view to bringing local government closer to the electorate?

Photo of John Prescott John Prescott Deputy Prime Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Local Government and the Regions, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

My hon. Friend makes a powerful point; he has tremendous experience of working in local government. As he will know, our new document on local vision makes it clear that we want more active citizen engagement and participation, which will be brought about by greater local leadership and will certainly be to the improvement of the community.