21 June 2012
The Local Government Finance Bill had its Second Reading in the House of Lords last week (12 June), and a large number of Peers from all parties made extensive use of LGA briefings to detail concerns that they have with the bill.
These focused on council tax benefit and business rate retention, which the LGA is lobbying hard to have amended (see 'first' 524 for details). The bill goes to committee on 3 July, when all amendments will be debated and voted on.
On other topics, the significant increase in metal theft in the last few years is having a major impact on LGA member authorities, including not only councils but a number of integrated transport authorities.
In the LGA's view, the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964 no longer provides an adequate regulatory regime for the metal recycling industry. The act only requires that councils register the dealer every three years for them to operate legitimately but provides little deterrence to those operating outside the law, with a maximum fine of £1,000.
We would like councils to have the ability to impose conditions on the license, where appropriate, in a similar way to other kinds of licenses. The Home Office is proposing that there be effectively two nationally set conditions in any bill, around record keeping and using cashless transactions.
These are sensible provisions but we are concerned that this would not be enough to change the behaviour of some of the worst-run dealers, and that councils need to be able to exercise some flexibility in being able to impose local conditions.
An annually renewable licence, which could be reviewed at the instigation of the police or the licensing authority and revoked where there were significant concerns about the probity of a dealer, would make it much less likely that stolen metal could be sold on to scrap metal dealers. With these hopes in mind, Richard Ottoway MP is taking forward the Scrap Metal Dealers Bill as a private member's bill. Its first reading was due this week.
Earlier this month, the Lords debated youth unemployment, with an LGA briefing outlining some of the issues facing local authorities trying to help unemployed young people in their local areas.
We propose a new deal enabling councils and local partners to pool £1 billion of funding to support the 260,000 most disengaged young people (pictured) into work and learning; and to reconnect education and skills provision with local jobs.
Councils have a duty to protect the most vulnerable, and to help ensure young people have quality local education and training opportunities as part of raising the compulsory participation age to 18. We want to make sure that councils and their partners, such as schools, further education colleges and local employers, have the tools to support these young people.
See our Parliament pages.
25 June 2012