Key localism reform axed from Bill
Published by 24publishing for 24dash.com in Local Government and also in Housing
Key localism reform deleted from Bill
Controversial Government plans to require England's largest 11 city councils to appoint "shadow mayors" in advance of local referendums on whether to turn their council leaders into executive mayors are to be deleted from the Localism Bill.
Junior local government minister Baroness Hanham announced the change of plan, which would also have involved combining the leader's role with that of council chief executive, during the Bill's committee stage.
She told peers tonight: "At second reading I indicated that we would listen to noble Lords' concerns about shadow mayors and mayors as chief executives. We are keen to build on the common ground and consensus that the Bill has enjoyed.
"When we reach the debate on mayoral provisions, the Government will be pleased to support amendments that have the effect of deleting from the Bill mayoral management arrangements; that is, mayors as chief executives and the concept of shadow mayors."
Lady Hanham said the Government would be supporting amendments from Labour, Tory former environment secretary Lord Jenkin of Roding and Liberal Democrats Lord Tope and Baroness Scott of Needham Market.
Ministers would also support a series of amendments from Tory backbenchers Lord True and Lord Howard of Rising.
Lady Hanham added: "Deleting these provisions from the Bill will not prevent councils deciding to do away with the non-statutory post of chief executive should they choose to do so.
"Indeed, the newly elected mayor of Leicester has announced that he is proposing to do just that."
She said the Government's decision resulted from "concerns that have been raised in the Commons and in discussion here at Second Reading".
Shadow local government secretary Caroline Flint said in a statement: "This is a victory for Labour's campaign against the Tory-led Government's undemocratic and costly plans to impose shadow mayors on England's largest cities and their half-baked idea of combining the roles of mayor and chief executive.
"Following his climbdown on bin collections a few days ago, this is the second major personal humiliation for (Local Government Secretary) Eric Pickles in the space of a week."
The Government's plans would have applied to Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Coventry, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Nottingham, Leeds, Sheffield and Wakefield.
Shadow mayors would have been in post until May 2012, when a referendum would decide whether the mayor model of local government should continue. For areas that voted in favour, mayoral elections would then have been held in May 2013.
There has been particular controversy in Birmingham, where Labour is optimistic of regaining overall control in the local elections next May.
Labour peers' deputy leader Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, a former Birmingham city councillor, had been due to tackle ministers at question time tomorrow on whether the city's Tory leader, Mike Whitby, should become shadow mayor until 2013.