Miliband plans new powers for councils and oversight on spending

Miliband plans new powers for councils and oversight on spending

The Labour leader wants council finances to be held publicly to account in return for access to central government funding.
Ed Miliband: the future is local if Labour is elected

Councils will be given fresh powers devolved from the centre, but in return they will have to answer to new local spending watchdogs under Labour plans being revealed on Monday by Ed Miliband.

The Labour leader will require councils to introduce watchdogs based on parliament’s public accounts committee as part of a package of major reforms to be introduced by a Labour government.

In an article for the Guardian, Miliband outlines for the first time the detail of plans to hand over many central government spending powers to councils.

But as part of a proposal to allow proper examination of council spending, he wants each authority to “have its own Margaret Hodge”, a reference to the combative chair of House of Commons public accounts committee, as well as local service league tables to ensure the money is spent properly. The committees would comprise councillors who would be asked to scrutinise each part of the councils’ spending programme.

Miliband writes: “I will not hand over billions of pounds to local authorities without also insisting on a new system of checks and balances. The next government will introduce a statutory requirement for local authorities to set up a public accounts committee with powers to scrutinise value for money for all services in their area. The role played by Labour’s formidable chairman of the Commons PAC shows what can be done – and I believe every town and city should have its own Margaret Hodge.

“This would be coupled with new requirements to publish performance league tables for every local service so that people can hold them to account, and for districts and county councils in two-tier areas to have joint committees to plan and drive reforms.”

The plans will be included in a report launched on Monday by Labour’slocal government innovation taskforce, which is being described by aides as a New Deal for English councils.

Instead of an annual budget set in Whitehall, a Labour government would provide “long-term funding settlements” for council services over each parliamentary term, which would allow council leaders to make better plans, Miliband writes.

Labour would also introduce laws giving councils access to central government money so they can integrate health and social care programmes to help to keep elderly and disabled people out of hospital, his article discloses. At present, vulnerable people can be shunted between different authorities and their individual needs can be ignored.

Miliband also plans to give councils powers to spend more than £1.5bn a year, currently controlled by Whitehall, on further education for 19- to 24-year-olds and bring jobcentres and youth services together for those under the age of 21 looking for work.

Local authorities would be allowed to set priorities for combating crime, make childcare providers and health services co-operate with Sure Start centres as the new hubs of family support, and strengthen local accountability in education with the appointment of directors of schools standards.

  • The Guardian, 

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