Clause 8

Part of Local Authorities (Overview and Scrutiny) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 3rd March 2010.

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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 11:00 am, 3rd March 2010

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich said, concerns about clause 8 were raised on Second Reading. In particular, Members were concerned that the provision would undermine the overall structure of accountability in local authorities, with scrutiny committees acting as a check and balance against a strong executive.

I assure the Committee that we do not intend to use the regulation-making power to blur the important distinction between the executive’s role in the strategic leadership of the council and the scrutiny committee’s role of holding the executive to account. Like the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne and others, we believe that there may be circumstances—for instance, if a committee is scrutinising an external body on matters of local concern in which the council has played  no part—in which the capacity to enable members of the executive to be present could improve the scrutiny of such matters and may be more productive to the benefit of the local community.

Like the Committee, however, the Government realise that that could be difficult. Allowing each council to decide whether a member should be present could result in pressure, which is why I urge my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich to work with me and my officials on a way forward that we could introduce on Report.