Sir Michael Lyons today hosts a national conference following the publication of his much anticipated report into the future role, function and funding of local government.
The conference will hear from a range of senior figures from across central, regional and local government as well as perspectives from business and the third sector. Speakers include Ed Balls, Economic Secretary to the Treasury; Phil Woolas, Minister for Local Government, Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London and Richard Lambert, Director-General CBI.
This conference offers the first opportunity for delegates to consider the detailed implications of the Lyons Inquiry with Sir Michael, particularly debating issues around economic prosperity and infrastructure; place-shaping and local choice and promoting a single system of governance.
Speaking at the conference Sir Michael will explain his developmental approach to reform and discuss his recommendations for both the short and longer-term future of local government. He will say:
“My report clearly shows the need for local government to take on a wider role in working with business to promote economic prosperity at a local level. I welcome the Government’s commitment to improve the incentives for local authorities to promote economic prosperity within their area and look forward to the Government’s proposals that are promised before the summer. I also welcome the Government’s consideration of my recommendation on local supplementary business rates and look forward to the debate that will inform how this is taken forward.
“The Government’s agreement to set a target to reduce specific grants and ring-fenced funding shows a clear commitment to enhance flexibility at the local level which should help to support local innovation and the ability of local government to tailor services to the needs of their area. This will be greatly supported by their agreement to examine the scope to minimise the complex and time-consuming reporting and data provision as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review. An issue which my Inquiry highlighted as in need of action.
“I have made specific recommendations regarding the reform of CTB to improve the fairness of council tax, especially for pensioners, and welcome the Government’s acknowledgment that more should be done to encourage the take-up of CTB. My report clearly makes the case for reforms to address the perceived fairness of the tax, and to significantly reduce the burden on the poorest households. I welcome the Government’s commitment to consider these wider proposals alongside the priorities for the tax and benefit system as a whole.”
Sir Michael will also take the opportunity to clarify his conclusions and recommendations around revaluation and council tax banding. He will say
“I conclude that council tax benefit is not broken, and that a tax on property (and land) has particular advantages as a local source of revenue. I am clear that the Government has postponed any revaluation for the lifetime of this Parliament, however, looking to the future, my analysis shows that revaluation of properties is an important part of maintaining a viable and up-to-date local tax base, and should go ahead in the medium term. At that point, the Government should create new bands at the top and bottom of the existing structure.
“I am glad the Government agrees with my conclusions regarding the importance of transparency and clarity in the funding of local government. An independent commission is only one option to be considered in examining how better and more independent information could be provided to the public and Parliament, and I would encourage central and local government to consider how best to achieve this. It is in all our interests to improve the scrutiny of our system of government in the interests of clearer accountability, better decision making, and strengthened public trust.”