Fact Service June 2011

Issue 25

Sneak removal of local consultation

So much for the prime minister’s idea of the Big Society. Local public services — councils, police and fire services, and local health bodies — have for almost two years been under a legal duty to inform, consult and involve local people.

However, as Davy Jones reports on the False Economy website, the government plans to remove that duty. This will take away a legal safeguard for local people and give succour to those officers and councillors who feel “they know best”. It is hard to see how this in any way squares with David Cameron’s stated aim of a Big Society to “give people more power and control to improve their lives and communities”.

Perhaps the most worrying aspect of this proposed ditching of the duty to involve is its manner and timing: sneaked in as one sentence within guidance on a different issue — Best Value — at just the moment when local public services are most under threat and public concern is at its greatest.

Jones says: “Cynically, you have to wonder whether the government feared that the duty provided those fighting local cutbacks with a potential legal weapon to prevent them.”