Thursday 15 November 2018
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Town halls present ministers with dossier of red tape faced by councils

A detailed dossier of bureaucratic burdens faced by councils, detailing the costs of unnecessary red tape and outdated laws has been submitted to Ministers by council leaders.

The submission to Ministers by the Local Government Association, which represents more than 350 councils in England and Wales, lays bare the huge burden of red tape facing councils which costs millions of pounds and diverts council staff from providing front line services.

It includes details of guidance, micromanagement, rarely-used legislation, unnecessary legal duties and other bureaucracy which is imposed on town halls.

Examples in the dossier include:

* Thousands of pages of official guidance that has no legal force. There are more than 2,000 pages of planning guidance and more than 10,000 pages of guidance just for administering housing and council tax benefits.
* Councils have to provide 2,500 separate pieces of data to Government and quangos.
* Costly requirements to buy commercial advertising space for public notices.
* Laws forcing councils to say how efficient they are on council tax bills have cost £10 million.
* Laws force councils to put costly traffic calming measures on all roads with a 20mph speed limits, even if they are quiet cul-de-sacs.
* Councils are required by law to produce a plethora of bureaucratic and costly plans on everything from community strategies to crime and disorder reduction strategies.
* Councils must keep track of and enforce a maze of outdated laws, ranging from a ban on marriages after 6pm, the offence of accidentally allowing your chimney to catch fire, and a ban on shopkeepers who allow thieves and prostitutes to assemble in their property.

Baroness Margaret Eaton, Chairman of the LGA, said:

“Councils have to cope with a mountain of paperwork from Government and quangos and are forced to prepare bureaucratic plans on everything under the sun.

“Town hall staff have to enforce antiquated and sometimes bizarre laws, fill in endless forms and spend money dealing with a blizzard of initiatives. At the same time an army of inspectors is paid by the public purse to check up on them.

“In the current climate we can’t afford to waste a single pound on things that do not help provide services to people. We need to make sure the Government cuts waste and protects front line services for vulnerable people who need them most.

“We need nothing less than a transformation of the way the public sector works to deliver savings through a bonfire of bureaucracy, a radical scaling back of the quango state and giving power to the people who know their areas best.”