THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA OF RIGHTS
As the world celebrates the Millennium, the author takes a few minutes out of the wild scenes to reflect on what the new dawn may have in store for local government lawyers.
This year will see many of the Government’s modernisation "jigsaw" coming together. The following major pieces of legislation are noticeably:-
- Best Value on 2nd January 2000;
- Data Protection Act changes on 1st April 2000; and
- Human Rights Act Implementation on 2nd October 2000.
In addition, it is also highly probable that major parts of the Freedom of Information Bill 1999 and the Local Government Bill 1999 (re political management structures) currently going through Parliament will become operative quickly because draft Bills on the same were out for consultation purposes many months before the Bills were actually introduced into Parliament.
So what does all this mean for the busy Chief Legal Officer?
Here are some of the author's thoughts:
- Firstly, the Chief Legal Officer will need to consider very carefully not just the legal and political implications of the same, but also, possibly, the social, economic and environmental implications for his/her locality in terms of the local authority, its partners and the individuals/groups likely to exercise any of the ‘new’ rights;
- Secondly, s/he will need to consider carefully the emerging caselaw and current jurisprudence on the same. There is, of course, a colossal amount of ‘catching up’ for local government lawyers to do with regard to the European Connection on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms 1950;
- Thirdly, s/he will need to implement careful change to what will, undoubtedly, be established (and, possibly, old) ways of doing things amongst lawyers and, of course, other practitioners. As we all know, the management of change is not easy and can be quite time consuming, frustrating and painful for many people. Appropriate strategies, policies, procedures, systems and processes will, therefore, need to be put in place (or existing ones, at least, reviewed) to address both the hard and soft aspects of change; and
- Fourthly, as if the above were not enough for those seeking real challenges, s/he will also have to be mindful of his/her own personal and career development needs for continued success.
Anyone who thinks the legislative changes being brought into force this year are unlikely to effect his/her career or be sufficiently challenging or be of the mind that s/he has seen it all before and, as such, will be able to muddle through, is in for an awakening and a real culture shock.
So what’s the solution to all this?
S/he is, of course, not alone in facing the dawn of a new era of rights and the professional associations that s/he is a member of (and other local government networks) will, undoubtedly, be working hard this year (as in previous years) to provide him/her with the relevant professional (and , no doubt, much needed social) support to see him/her through this period.
Mirza Ahmad MBA LLM Barrister
Chairman, Bar Association for Local Government of the Public Service
Assistant Director (Legal), Bolton MBC