Clause 6

Part of Local Authorities (Overview and Scrutiny) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 3rd March 2010.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Barbara Follett Barbara Follett Minister of State (the East of England), Regional Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (the East of England), Department for Communities and Local Government 10:45 am, 3rd March 2010

I do not share the hon. Lady’s hopes; in fact, I have entirely different ones. I look forward to the regulations being taken through the House but, sadly, I will not be here to see it because I am standing down at the general election.

Clause 6 provides that the provisions of part 1 of the Bill, which sets out the framework for the enhanced scrutiny regime, will apply to county councils in England and to London borough councils, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich said. Part 1 of the Bill does not apply to non-unitary district councils.

That approach has been taken to minimise the potential burdens placed on bodies subject to the enhanced regime—I hope that the hon. Member for Northampton, South, will be pleased about that—and to reduce the ever-present risk of duplication. However, that is not to devalue the important work of non-unitary district councils in scrutinising matters of local concern. I can reassure right hon. and hon. Members that such district councils will continue to have a very important role, under both the existing and the enhanced scrutiny regimes, in holding to account and scrutinising the decisions of local public service providers.

Amendments made by the Bill will allow the Secretary of State to extend the enhanced scrutiny powers to joint overview and scrutiny committees. That will enable non-unitary district councils, working with their county council, to take full advantage of the new powers to hold local public service providers to account on behalf of their communities.

The Government intend to work with experts in the field of local government scrutiny to produce best practice guidance on the operation of joint overview and scrutiny committees when the new scrutiny powers that are set out in the Bill are used. That guidance may also include helpful suggestions and illustrative examples of how non-unitary district councils can become involved in that scrutiny work.