Mirza F. N. Ahmad, M.B.A., LL.M, Barrister
Chief Legal Officer,
DX : MDX 13053
Tel: 0121-303 9991, Fax: 0121-303 1312
Robert Posner MBA, Barrister
T: 020 7271 0500
Re - Government Consultation Papers on Local Strategic Partnerships
I write in my capacity as Chairman of the Bar Association, which represents barristers employed in local government and the public services. The Bar Association is a direct successor of the Society of Local Government Barristers, which had been in existence since about 1945. We currently have a membership database that exceeds 110 members.
I welcome the fact that the Government issued, on
(i) 'Creating strong, safe and prosperous communities. Statutory guidance : draft for consultation'; and
(ii) 'Development of the new LAA framework- Operational guidance 2007':
I strongly encourage non-lawyers to understand the legal aspects explained by paragraphs 2.2 and 2.3 of the Statutory Guidance - and the two throw away paragraphs of the Operational Guidance, appearing at the end of page 48 and at the top of page 49 – when they read these documents.
These 4 paragraphs are critical for effective Local Strategic Partnership (LSP) working and I am disappointed that the Government has failed to give, from a practical perspective, more prominence to such statements I fear, therefore, that non-lawyers will focus on the Government’s 107 pages of ‘hard sell’ on the virtues of partnership working and their guidance will encourage non-lawyers to think that LSPs will be able to "control" / "make" executive decisions on budgets 'allocated to' or 'pooled' by the partners under the LAA, MAA or City Regions.
The fact remains: LSPs can not, as a matter of law, take executive decisions and the Government must do more to stop muddled thinking amongst local government practitioners and civil servants. On my part, I am writing to the Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government, the Rt Hon Hazel Blears MP, to offer my assistance to strengthen local governance.
Note to Editor: For ease of reference the relevant paragraphs are reproduced below.
(i) Relevant extracts from
'Local Strategic Partnerships
2.2 LSPs provide the forum for collectively reviewing and steering public resources, through identifying priorities in Sustainable Community Strategies and LAAs. But (as non-statutory bodies) they are not the ultimate decision makers on such plans. All target-setting, and consequent financial, commissioning, or contractual commitments proposed by LSPs, must be formalised through the relevant local authority, or through one of the other LSP partners (for example, if policing, or health resources are involved).
2.3 LSPs are not statutory bodies and there are no provisions in the Act that create a legal relationship between either local authorities and ‘the LSP’ or their partners and ‘the LSP’. LSPs are instead a collection of organisations and representatives coming together voluntarily to work in partnership.'
(ii) Relevant extracts
(End of page 48):
Each sub-region will need to demonstrate that they have appropriate governance structures in place in order to proceed with an MAA. There is no one fixed model for this and indeed the extent of the requirements will vary depending on the scope and complexity of the individual agreements. To ensure that proposals are proportionate to each MAA, it is therefore anticipated that partners, including RDAs, would discuss options in line with their negotiations with government (including GOs) and thereby ensure that the governance proposals enable strong leadership, robust and accountable decision making and appropriate engagement with local stakeholders.'
(Top of page 49):
'The fact that joint working across boundaries is being progressed by an MAA does not itself alter the normal legal and financial requirements placed on local authorities and partners. Local authorities and other agencies involved will need to establish their own governance arrangements for formalising joint decisions, appraising and commissioning projects and activities, evaluating their effectiveness and ensuring that they remain within their various powers and vires at all times.'