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REPORT ON THE
SESSION 2002/2003 SECOND REPORT
Ordered by The Committee for the Environment to be printed on 3October 2002
Report: 02/02 (Committee for the Environment)
COMMITTEE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
COMMITTEE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT:
REPORT ON THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT (MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS) BILL (NIA 7/01)
The Committee has power to:
Dr William McCrea (Chairperson)
1. Ms Patricia Lewsley replaced Ms Carmel Hanna as Deputy Chairperson on
21 January 2002.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Appendix 1 - Minutes of Proceedings
1. The Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill was referred to the Committee for consideration in accordance with Assembly Standing Order 31(1) on completion of the Second Stage Reading of the Bill on 20 May 2002.
2. The Minister of the Environment (the Minister) made the following statement under Section 9 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998:
"In my view the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill would be within the legislative competence of the Northern Ireland Assembly."
3. The stated purpose of the Bill is as follows:-
(i) make new provision for the payment of general and other grants to District
4. The Committee Stage of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill began on 21 May 2002. In light of the Committee's concerns at that time and the desire to consult widely and fully, the Committee agreed that the Committee Stage should be extended to 17 October 2002 in order to ensure due and proper deliberation on the Bill. The Committee agreed the following Motion seeking an extension to the Committee Stage of the Bill.
"That, in accordance with Standing Order 31(5), the period referred to in Standing Order 31(3) be extended to 17 October 2002 in relation to the Committee Stage of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill (NIA 7/01)."
The Assembly agreed this Motion on 25 June 2002.
5. During the period covered by this Report, the Committee considered the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill and related issues at sixteen meetings: 13 December 2001, 10 and 17 January 2002, 14 March 2002, 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30 May 2002, 6, 13, 20 and 27 June 2002, 4 July 2002, 19 September 2002, 3 October 2002. The Minutes of Proceedings for these meetings are included at Appendix 1.
6. The Committee had before it the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill (NIA 7/01) and the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum (EFM) that accompanied the Bill.
7. One of the principal purposes of this Bill is to provide for a legislative framework for the introduction of a new methodology for calculation and distribution of the resources element of the General Grant. It is widely recognised that the current formula is extremely complicated and lacks the flexibility to address a range of problems, such as the socio-economic disadvantage between District Council areas. These problems/issues were first highlighted within a consultation exercise undertaken by the Department of the Environment (the Department) in 2001.
8. On 17 September 2001 the Department sent the Committee a Consultation Document on its proposals for a new formula for distribution of the resources element of the General Exchequer Grant to District Councils. (Appendix 3, Annex 1 refers.) The Committee considered the Document at its meeting on 13 December 2001 and decided to invite Department Officials to give a presentation on the subject.
9. On 10 January 2002 Department Officials attended the Committee meeting and gave a presentation on the Document's principal proposals. The Officials answered questions from the Members.
10. On 15 January 2002 the Department wrote to the Committee to clarify the position on 'borderline' District Councils that would not qualify for the resources element of the General Grant and to advise the Committee of the outcome of a sensitivity analysis on the issue. (Appendix 3, Annex 2 refers.)
11. On 17 January 2002 the Committee discussed the matter and agreed its response to the Consultation Document and this was sent to the Department. (Appendix 3, Annex 3 refers.)
12. A further key purpose of the Bill is to confer new powers on District Councils in relation to community safety. On 8 March 2002 the Minister wrote to the Committee Chairperson to advise that following consultation on the Criminal Justice Review Implementation Plan and Draft Justice (NI) Bill, he was proposing an additional clause to the Criminal Justice Bill to provide District Councils with statutory powers to engage in a community safety function. The Minister wrote:-
'I recommend to the Committee that we proceed with a motion to include in the Criminal Justice Bill a discretionary power to allow District Councils to engage in community safety functions. Proposals to proceed with an amendment will be subject to comments received, but also subject to it being accommodated by the NIO within the timeframe for the Justice Bill.
I further recommend that I proceed to have a motion placed on the Order Paper for debate on 19 March.'
(Appendix 3, Annex 4 refers.)
13. On 14 March 2002 the Committee considered the Minister's letter of 8 March 2002 and it was agreed that the Committee was content with the proposal. On 25 March 2002 the Committee Chairperson wrote to the Minister;
'The Committee noted that the amendment seeks to provide discretionary powers to District Councils to engage in community safety work. The Committee concluded that it has no concerns with the proposals set out in your letter.'
(Appendix 3, Annex 5 refers.)
14. On 29 April 2002 the Department wrote to the Committee about the contents of the proposed Bill and provided a copy of the draft Bill and EFM. (Appendix 3, Annex 6 refers.) The letter outlined the three main constituents of the proposed Bill:-
(a) a provision to legislate for a revised formula for the resources element of the General Exchequer Grant - this reflected the outcome of the earlier consultation exercise;
(b) a provision to extend the existing powers of District Councils to promote the economic development of their areas, for example, by removing the financial limits imposed on District Councils by Section 28 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Order 1992 - District Councils had been consulted on this in 1997; and
(c) a provision to allow District Councils to engage in community safety programmes - it had not been possible to include this within the Criminal Justice Bill as planned because of timing difficulties and the Executive had approved its inclusion within this Bill.
15. On 30 April 2002 the Committee asked the Department for further information on some of the consultation exercises referred to within the Department's letter of 29 April 2002. (Appendix 3, Annex 7 refers.)
16. At its meeting on 2 May 2002 the Committee considered the draft Bill and EFM. In welcoming the Bill, it was agreed to invite Department Officials to give a presentation on the proposals.
17. On 7 May 2002 the Bill was introduced to the Assembly. On the same date, the Department responded to the Committee's request of 30 April 2002 for some further information. (Appendix 3, Annex 8 refers.) The Department, as well as providing additional papers, stated that there had been overwhelming support among District Councils in 1997 for the proposed powers in relation to economic development and suggested that the Committee may wish to contact the Northern Ireland Office (NIO), which was currently consulting on a Community Safety Strategy document called 'Creating a safer Northern Ireland through Partnership'.
18. On 9 May 2002 Department Officials attended the Committee meeting and gave a presentation on the principal clauses within the Bill. (Appendix 3, Annex 9 refers.) The Officials also answered questions from the Members. The Committee agreed to write to the Department for clarification on some issues, to consult with a number of key interested parties and to invite NIO Officials to a future Committee meeting to discuss the community safety aspects of the Bill.
19. On 10 May 2002, a letter, along with a copy of the Bill and the EFM, was sent to the 26 District Councils for comment, if any. (Appendix 3, Annex 10 refers.) A similar letter was sent to the Society of Local Authorities Chief Executives, Northern Ireland Branch, (SOLACE) and the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) on 20 May 2002. (Appendix 3, Annex 11 refers.)
20. On 13 May 2002 a letter was sent to the Department with questions outstanding from the Committee meeting of 9 May 2002. (Appendix 3, Annex 12 refers.)
21. On 16 May 2002 Officials from both the Department and NIO attended the Committee meeting and gave a presentation on the issues surrounding Community Safety Partnerships. (The NIO Officials' presentation notes are included at Appendix 3, Annex 13.) The Officials answered questions from the Members and undertook to write to the Committee on a number of issues, including funding.
22. On 20 May 2002 the Assembly agreed the Second Stage Reading of the Bill and it was formally passed to the Committee to undertake its scrutiny of the Bill. (Appendix 3, Annex 14 refers.) On the same date, the Department wrote to the Committee in response to the Committee's letter of 13 May 2002. (Appendix 3, Annex 15 refers.) This detailed letter, in accepting that some amendments to the Bill would be necessary, set out to clarify the Members' concerns on a wide range of issues.
23. On 22 May 2002 the NIO wrote to the Committee Chairperson with further details of the funding arrangements for Community Safety Partnerships. (Appendix 3, Annex 16 refers.)
24. On 23 May 2002 Department Officials attended the Committee meeting and gave a presentation on several aspects of the Bill, including the revised formula for determining the resources element of the General Exchequer Grant payable to District Councils, the Department's powers to make reductions in the General Grant payable and the status of the 'directions' from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) in relation to the powers of District Councils to promote economic development. The Officials answered questions from Members and agreed to return to the Committee's next meeting on 30 May 2002. The Committee agreed to forward outstanding questions and concerns to the Department along with the responses received to date from the Committee's consultation exercise with key interested parties. On the same date, the Committee sent a letter to the Department with detailed questions on aspects of Clauses 2, 4, 6 and 7. (Appendix 3, Annex 17 refers.) Responses from fifteen of the parties consulted by the Committee were enclosed. (Appendix 4).
25. On 28 May 2002 the Department replied in detail to the Committee's letter of 23 May 2002. (Appendix 3, Annex 18 refers.) The Department accepted the Committee's contention that further amendments were necessary to a number of clauses and clarified the wording within other clauses, especially in relation to the proposed formula for calculation of the resources element of the General Exchequer Grant.
26. On 30 May 2002 Department Officials attended the Committee meeting and gave a presentation on a number of issues, including the equality impact assessment, vesting powers and duplication concerns between District Policing Partnerships and Community Safety Partnerships. The Officials answered questions from the Members. The Committee agreed to invite representatives from three District Councils to its meeting the following week.
27. On 6 June 2002 representatives from both Belfast City Council and Craigavon Borough Council attended the Committee meeting and each gave a presentation on their Council's concerns with the proposals within the Bill - the representative from Craigavon also attended as a representative of SOLACE. The representatives referred specifically to their submissions to the Committee. (Appendix 4 refers.) The concerns discussed with the Committee included powers in respect of economic development, vesting powers and emergency planning powers of District Councils. Officials from the Department were in attendance and they joined the meeting to discuss some of the issues raised by the representatives from the District Councils.
28. On 6 June 2002 the Committee wrote to the NIO to seek clarification on concerns regarding possible duplication between Community Safety Partnerships and District Policing Partnerships. (Appendix 3, Annex 19 refers.)
29. On 7 June 2002 the representative of SOLACE, who had attended the Committee meeting on 6 June 2002, wrote to the Committee to confirm the comments he had made at the meeting on behalf of SOLACE. (Appendix 3, Annex 20 refers.)
30. On 13 June 2002 Department Officials attended the Committee meeting and spoke to a Working Draft revise of the Bill, presented to the Committee with proposed textual amendments highlighted, before answering questions from the Members. (Appendix 3, Annex 21 refers.) The Committee also agreed to submit a Motion to the Assembly for an extension to the Committee Stage of the Bill to 17 October 2002. (See paragraph 4 of this Report.)
31. On 20 June 2002 Department Officials attended the Committee meeting and discussed some of the proposed amendments with the Committee. The issues discussed included the Assembly's role in relation to reducing the General Grant to District Councils and the need for clarification on use of the word 'impose' in Clause 7 (2) of the Bill in relation to 'other functions' associated with Community Safety Partnerships.
32. On 25 June 2002 the Department wrote to the Committee to clarify the use of the word 'impose'. The Department wrote;
'Hence, the reason for using the words 'confer' and 'impose' in Clause 7(2) of the Bill is to provide the legislator with the power to introduce mandatory or discretional functions using subordinate legislation. Such a raft legislation for community safety would be subject to full consultation with District Councils and other interests, followed by scrutiny by the Assembly institutions. Indeed, the legislation would be subject to affirmative resolution of the Assembly, as provided for in Clause 7(3) of the Bill.'
(Appendix 3, Annex 22 refers.)
33. On 27 June 2002 Department Officials attended the Committee meeting and spoke to a second Working Draft revise of the Bill that incorporated and highlighted the proposed amendments discussed with the Committee to date. (Appendix 3, Annex 23 refers.) Officials from the NIO joined the meeting and discussed issues surrounding Community Safety Partnerships. The issues discussed included membership, functions and financial support to the Partnerships. The Officials made specific reference to a letter they had sent to the Committee on 20 June 2002 with a Briefing Paper which sought to clarify how Community Safety Partnerships and their functions differ from District Policing Partnerships. (Appendix 3, Annex 24 refers.)
34. On 2 July 2002 the Minister wrote to the Chairperson to state that he had agreed to move amendments to Clauses 2, 4, 6 and 7 of the Bill and provided a detailed list of the proposed amendments to be included within the Motion for the Consideration Stage Debate on the Bill. (Appendix 3, Annex 25 refers.) The Minster also wrote;
'A revised Explanatory and Financial Memorandum, which will reflect the revised Bill and clarify the points and issues raised by the Committee, will be finalised following Consideration Stage.'
35. On 4 July 2002 Department Officials attended the Committee meeting and gave a presentation on the amendments to the Bill, now agreed by the Minister. The Officials answered questions from the Members on issues such as the powers of District Councils in relation to community safety and the draft Regulations that will flow from the Bill. The Committee agreed to give a formal Clause-by-Clause consideration of the Bill, in light of the proposed amendments, in early September 2002.
36. On 19 September 2002, the Committee carried out a formal Clause-by-Clause consideration of the Bill. Department Officials attended the meeting.
37. The Committee agreed to advise the Assembly on each Clause as follows:-
Clause 1 The General Grant to District Councils
"That the Committee is content with the Clause."
Clause 2 Determination of the Resources Element
"That the Committee agrees that Clause 2 should be amended as directed by the Minister of the Environment in his letter of 2 July 2002 to the Committee."
Clause 3 Determination of the Derating Element
"That the Committee is content with the Clause."
Clause 4 Reductions in General Grant
"That the Committee agrees that Clause 4 should be amended as directed by the Minister of the Environment in his letter of 2 July 2002 to the Committee."
Clause 5 Other Grants to District Councils
"That the Committee is content with the Clause."
Clause 6 Powers of District Councils in relation to Economic Development
"That the Committee agrees that Clause 6 should be amended as directed by the Minister of the Environment in his letter of 2 July 2002 to the Committee."
Clause 7 Powers of District Councils in relation to Community Safety
"That the Committee agrees that Clause 7 should be amended as directed by the Minister of the Environment in his letter of 2 July 2002 to the Committee."
Clause 8 Interpretation
"That the Committee is content with the Clause."
Clause 9 Repeals
"That the Committee is content with the Clause."
Clause 10 Commencement and Savings
"That the Committee is content with the Clause."
Clause 11 Short Title
"That the Committee is content with the Clause."
38. When this Bill was first introduced to the Committee within a September 2001 Consultation Document, it was originally described as a 'Finance Bill', solely intended to bring about changes to the methodology used for the calculation and distribution of the resources element of the General Grant payable to Councils. It is widely recognised that the current formula is unwieldy and complex with wide annual variations in the amount of the grant due that makes any long-term planning difficult for Councils. There had also been a number of errors in the 'penny product' calculation in recent years.
39. The Department wrote to the Committee the week before the Bill was to be formally introduced to the Assembly with details of the contents of the proposed Bill. From what was originally conceived as a relatively-straightforward 'Finance Bill' with a single purpose, the Committee was surprised to learn that not only was the Bill to now amend the formula for the resources element of the General Grant but it would also include provisions to extend the powers of Councils to promote economic development within their areas and to allow Councils to engage in Community Safety Partnerships (CSPs). With quite a mixture of provisions, the Bill now presented the Committee with some unexpected and demanding challenges.
40. By the time the Bill was introduced to the Assembly on 7 May 2002, the Committee had already begun some pre-introductory discussions with Department Officials and these continued until (and after) the Bill was formally referred to the Committee after the Second Stage Reading on 20 May 2002.
41. A number of Members spoke during the Second Stage Reading and while giving a broad welcome to the Bill, they highlighted a range of similar issues/concerns for the Committee to consider - many of these had already been identified by the Committee. Under the headings of the three major provisions these were:-
New Formula - concerns included the danger of fluctuations in the annual General Grant, the need to consider the forthcoming Regulations from the Bill which would provide the detail and understanding of the financial complexity of the new formula;
Economic Powers of Councils - concerns at the 'directions' to be issued by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) and what Councils could do if these were unreasonable; the desire of Councils to take on these new powers when they were not using the existing powers to their full capability; the possible effect on the Council rates; greater accountability for those elected and the powers of Councils to vest land; and
CSPs - a low level of awareness about the concept of community safety; who will be involved in its envisaged community partnership structure; confusion about the role of CSP's with the concurrent creation of District Policing Partnerships (DPPs) and the lack of proper consideration of all the relevant issues before 'tagging' community safety onto this Bill.
42. In accordance with this Committee's practice of informing and involving as wide a stakeholder base as possible, copies of the Bill and EFM were sent to a range of key interested parties, including the 26 District Councils, SOLACE and NILGA.
43. Of the 26 Councils, 17 replied. Similar concerns were raised by many Councils as they recognised the potential impact of the provisions of this Bill, as proposed. While full details are available within their responses (see Appendix 4), the Councils' concerns centred on:-
(a) the process and power to reduce the grant payable; the need to include in the formula all relevant factors such as sparcity, rurality and tourism;
(b) the power of DETI to unilaterally issue 'directions' that may restrict Councils and the need for clarification on the powers to vest and dispose of land; and
(c) the apparent duplication between CSPs and DPPs, the nature of the powers available to CSPs, the ability of the Department to 'impose' CSPs onto Councils without providing adequate or guaranteed long-term funding.
44. Two Councils, Belfast and Banbridge, and SOLACE stated that they would like to see this Bill legislate for emergency planning powers.
45. Clause 1 The Committee welcomed the Minister's statement during the Second Stage Reading that, from April 2003, payments to Councils would be made monthly rather than quarterly, as at present - subsection 1(3).
46. Clause 2 Having already been consulted in September 2001 on the proposed changes to the formula used to determine the grant payable, the Committee accepted at an early stage that this was primarily an enabling Clause to provide for the relevant and detailed Regulations. The Committee did have some concerns with subsections 2(2)(c) and 2(4) and, as can be seen from the relevant correspondence (within Appendix 3) and records of meetings, required substantial explanations from the Department before being content.
Subsection 2(5) concerned the Committee in that Regulations would be made 'which the Department considers appropriate' without any clear reference to consultation with those most likely to be affected, namely, the Councils. While the Department was quick to point out that any/all Regulations would be automatically referred to the Councils for consultation, it did accept the Committee's contention that it would be better if this point was incorporated within the Bill. Consequently the Minister agreed to table and move the following amendment at Consideration Stage:-
After Clause 2, subsection 6, insert -
'(7) Before making any regulations under this section the Department shall consult-
(a) such district councils; and
(b) such other interested bodies or persons,
as the Department considers appropriate.'
The Committee was particularly pleased to note that the Regulations would be subject to affirmative resolution within the Assembly (subsection 2(6)), thus providing an opportunity for all Members to comment and contribute to the debate.
47. Clause 4 While hoping that the circumstances and processes intended to be covered by Clause 4 are likely to be extremely rare, the Committee took the view that this Clause, as currently worded, needed to be radically changed if it was to be acceptable.
On questioning by the Committee, the Department stated that if circumstances warranted such action, a written report would be laid before the Assembly - this 'account' would give the circumstances surrounding the individual case for a deduction, together with details of any concerns raised by the Local Government Auditor (LGA) - including justification for the amount to be deducted. Any resulting comments made by the Assembly would be carefully considered by the Department before deciding if the matter should be reviewed. The Committee noted that the Clause, as worded:-
(a) did not stipulate that the action would be taken following a report from the LGA or that any such report would be included when the matter was referred to the Assembly;
(b) did not state by what procedure the report was to be brought before the Assembly;
(c) made no provision for the Assembly to comment on the 'rights/wrongs' of the proposed deductions and therefore failed to recognise the legislative authority of the Assembly; and
(d) contained no provision for the Department to review its decision.
After lengthy discussions with the Committee, the Department recognised the current weaknesses within this Clause and the need for extensive amendment. Consequently the Minister agreed to table and move the following amendments at Consideration Stage:-
Clause 4, page 2, line 25, leave out subsections (1) and (2) and insert-
'(1) Subsection (2) applies where the Department is satisfied, from information contained in a relevant report relating to a district council, that as regards any financial year-
(a) the council has failed to achieve or maintain a reasonable standard of economy, efficiency and effectiveness in the discharge of its functions, or
(b) the expenditure of the council has been excessive having regard to the council's financial resources and other circumstances relevant to the council.
(2) Where this subsection applies, the Department shall prepare and lay before the Assembly-
(a) a draft order providing that, in such financial year as is specified in the order (or in each of such financial years as are so specified), the amount of any general grant payable to the council shall be reduced by such amount as is so specified (or is so specified in relation to that year); and
(b) a document setting out-
(i) the reasons for making any reduction specified in the order; and
(ii) such details of the relevant report as the Department thinks appropriate.
(2A) If the draft order laid before the Assembly under subsection (2)(a) is approved by a resolution of the Assembly, the Department shall make the order in the same terms as the draft.
(2B) If that draft order is not so approved, the Department may prepare and lay before the Assembly a new draft order and document complying with subsection (2); and subsection (2A) and this subsection apply in relation to that draft order as they apply in relation to the original draft order.
(2C) In subsections (1) and (2) "relevant report" means a report made by a local government auditor under section 80, 88 or 89A of the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 1972 (c. 9).'
Clause 4, page 3, leave out line 3
Clause 4, page 3, leave out line 5 and insert-
'( ) such other interested bodies or persons,'
The Committee is satisfied that these proposed amendments give due recognition to the primacy of the Assembly through the need for the Department to produce a draft Order and other agreed procedural changes.
48. Clause 6 The terms of this Clause formed part of a consultation exercise carried out by the former Department of Environment in November 1997 on a proposal for a Draft Order in Council - The Regeneration and Development (NI) Order - and, although well accepted at that time, it was not progressed. However, the Department has decided that, following recent representations from several Councils pressing for the extension of powers, for example, the provision of sites for economic development purposes, and the removal of the expenditure limit (5p in the pound) so that they may match European funding that is available to them under the 'Building Sustainable Prosperity Programme 2000 - 2006', it was necessary to bring this provision forward within this Bill. While giving the provision a general welcome, the Committee did spend considerable time discussing the implications and application of the Clause.
One issue that many Councils wanted resolved was the question of vesting land for economic development purposes. Section 97(1) of the Local Government Act (NI) 1972 states:-
'where a council desires to acquire land otherwise than by agreement for any purpose for which it is authorised by a transferred provision so to acquire land, it may apply to the Ministry concerned for an order (in this Act referred to as a "vesting order") vesting the land in the council, and that Ministry may make a vesting order.'
The Committee pressed the Department to clarify the position through an amendment to the proposed Bill. Consequently the Minister agreed to table and move the following amendment at Consideration Stage:-
After 6(2) insert -
'(3) the power to acquire land under subsection 2(b) includes power to acquire it otherwise than by agreement.'
As currently worded, subsection 6(4) caused much concern among both the stakeholders and the Committee. This subsection reads:-
'(4) A district council shall exercise its functions under this section in accordance with such directions as may be issued from time to time by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment.'
Many saw this as restricting the new freedoms to be given by this Clause in the Bill in that Councils would be bound to consult with and follow the 'directions' from DETI when they wished to exercise these powers. When the Committee questioned the Department on this issue, it was told that the 'directions' would be 'non-statutory guidelines'. They would inform Councils of types of eligible economic development activity, to ensure a cohesive approach to policy and to avoid overlap and inconsistency. Following legal advice, the Committee took the stance that, as worded within the Bill, the status of the phrase 'such directions' was elevated above non-statutory guidelines as proposed by the Department. Consequently the Committee saw a strong case for limiting what these 'directions' should contain, that is, they should only be determined through a formal consultation exercise with all interested parties.
The Department consulted with DETI on the issue and subsequently informed the Committee that Councils would not be expected to consult with DETI on all/any of their proposals, provided they were operating within whatever guidelines were issued. This was allied with a concession that DETI would need to formally consult with Councils in drawing up these guidelines. In order to meet these concessions, the Minister agreed to table and move the following amendment at Consideration Stage:-
Clause 6, page 3, line 32, leave out subsection (4) and insert-
'(4) In exercising its powers under this section a district council shall have regard to any guidance for the time being issued under subsection (5).
(5) The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment may, after consultation with district councils and other interested bodies or persons, issue guidance as to the exercise by district councils of their powers under this section.'
49. Clause 7 In some ways, this Clause posed the greatest problems for the Committee. On 14 March 2002, the Committee had indicated that it had no concerns with the proposal to include a 'community safety' clause within the forthcoming Criminal Justice Bill. It was therefore surprised to find this Clause within this Bill.
The Committee's primary scrutiny of this Clause focussed on two areas, namely, (a) the role of CSPs and the potential for overlap of responsibilities with DPPs and (b) the use of the word 'impose' within subsection 7(2).
As regards (a) the Committee questioned the Department closely to establish the clear roles of CSPs and DPPs - also, the NIO provided key evidence as the Department directly responsible for bringing this Clause forward. In a letter on 20 June 2002, the NIO stated:-
'The functions and membership of CSPs and DPPs are very different. The CSP will be engaged in delivering services to and with the community. As a result, it will be made up of statutory organisations which have responsibility for those services - it will also wish to liaise closely with the community. The DPP is established as an accountability body for the police at a local level. Its functions and views are limited to policing issues ..It is made up of elected members and independents.
It will be important for the police to be part of CSPs. The police will report to the DPP but they actually contribute to the work of the CSP's.'
On 28 May 2002 the Department wrote to the Committee to clarify the use of the word 'impose'. The Department stated:-
'Clause 7 (1) makes provisions enabling district councils to engage in voluntary Community Safety Partnerships (CSPs), to be established in accordance with Section 70 of the forthcoming Justice (NI) Act 2002. Because these are discretionary provisions, it is quite feasible that some councils may choose not to participate in their local CSP.
Clause 7 (2) empowers the Department to confer, or impose, on district councils any functions aimed at enhancing community safety, which would be additional to or complement any community safety strategy devised by the Secretary of State. This clause, therefore, enables the Department (with the approval of the Assembly) to introduce by order community safety provisions, other than those provided for in Clause 7 (1). In other words, the powers in Clause 7 (2) cannot override what is provided for in Clause 7 (1).
Conferring further community safety powers to councils might arise if certain functions are not provided for through the voluntary CSPs. The term 'impose' is used to facilitate the will of the Assembly, if it takes the view that all councils must engage in some of these additional functions i.e. obligatory community safety functions as opposed to (but not in place of) the discretionary community safety powers provided in Clause 7 (1) or those conferred under Clause 7 (2).
While satisfied with these responses and subsequent discussions with Departmental officials, the Committee considered it helpful for the Department to state what would be required of those Councils who voluntarily engage in CSPs. Consequently, the Minister proposes to table and move the following amendment at Consideration Stage:-
In 7(1)(d), after 'assist' insert
'(whether financially or otherwise)'
This concluded the Committee's scrutiny of the individual clauses of the Bill.
50. With such a heavy legislative workload - the Committee is currently examining five Bills - and has a significant amount of other work, including numerous Consultation Documents - the Committee believes that it has more than adequately scrutinised this particular Bill, noting that senior Departmental Officials commented that the proposed amendments would result in a much better Bill.
51. As stated earlier within this Report, the Bill is largely an enabling Bill in relation to the new formula for calculation of the resources element of the General Grant, that is, the relevant Clauses provide for the subsequent introduction of Regulations which will provide the detail of the new formula scheme. Therefore, the Committee's scrutiny of these particular Clauses was at a relatively high level, that is, without the fine detail, contained within the Regulations which the Committee has now received. However, this did not prevent the Committee from pressing for and obtaining a number of amendments to be tabled and moved by the Minister. Amendments to the draft Regulations, currently out for consultation with key stakeholders, may well arise from the Committee's consideration of them.
52. As regards the new powers giving greater freedom to provide for economic development, the Committee and many Councils immediately recognised some potential problems, especially with the so-called 'directions' from the DETI. It is considered that amendments now agreed with the Minister, would adequately addresses those concerns.
53. Community Safety Partnerships are a new concept for Councils to become involved in and it was important that the differences between these and the new District Policing Partnerships were clarified. This has now been achieved, as has the conditions under which the Department will bring forward legislation to impose other related functions.
54. It is the Committee's opinion that this will be a better Bill in light of the queries and concerns raised by the Committee and the subsequent amendments to be tabled and moved by the Minister at Consideration Stage.
55. The Committee is content that the Minister will table and move the amendments detailed above to Clauses 2, 4, 6 and 7. The Committee does not propose to bring forward any amendments of its own to the Clauses of this Bill.
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