Statutory Duties and Consultations

Session of the Chamber of Local Authorities

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A blogpost by Vern Pitt  on the Community Care website alerted me to a very quiet consultation that started this week.

According to the post

Quiet as a mouse the Department of Communities and Local Government announced a review of all statutory duties on local authorities today.

There are a good proportion of these duties which fall into the lap of both adults and children’s social services departments.  This is a part of the DCLG process of ‘decentralising’. The central government wants to remove some of these ‘duties’.

Yes, the website does say that essential duties will be protected but there is no indication of what the government thinking is that these essential duties will be. It worries and frightens me though. Not that I’m a fan of bureaucracy but I am greatly in favour of statutory rights and publicly provided rights of citizens who require support to receive it.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into it. Perhaps I have understood. Perhaps I’m just becoming paranoid in relation to the government agenda but it made me gasp audibly when I read through the all the duties of local government that are being put ‘on the table’. I know the document states that it is not a matter of removing these duties but the consultation puts a lot of ways we have been working and are working into the spotlight in an uncomfortable manner.

The framing of the context of this review seems rather sinister and follows the line of central government directives as being the ‘enemy of enterprise’ as the DCLG website states

Local authorities are most effective when they have freedom to innovate and respond to what local people want. We want to reduce radically the demands, burdens and restrictions placed on local authorities by central government.

Some of these demands, burdens and restrictions provide a safety net and a protection to those who aren’t able to engage as fully in the political process as Pickles might like us to.

Just have a look at the duties that are under consultation on the DCLG website. There are two relevant documents but the one I was more interested in was the ‘Review of Statutory Duties – other government departments’ document at the bottom of the page (it is an Excel document – hence my inability to link here).

It covers duties too numerous to list under the Department of Education in relation to Children’s Services and under the Department of Health in relation to Adult Social Care and Mental Health services – though a lot of the duties under Adult Social Care are being considered by a Law Commission which is reviewing Adult Social Care Law in general.

I can see some of these being removed from local authorities so that private companies can step into the gap. The government want to strip local authorities bare and have already taken many steps in that direction.

We need our voices to be heard in this consultation.

We need to protect public delivery of public services.

Another reason I’m going to be marching in London on March 26th.