The Localism Bill

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2011 Local Government Service Group Conference
24 February 2011
Carried as Amended

The Localism Bill contains an important measure that will impact on local government and our members which is known as the Community Right to Challenge

The Community Right to Challenge is presented as a measure to encourage the involvement of charities, social enterprises or employee mutuals in the delivery of local authority services. However if an initial ‘expression of interest’ in running a service is accepted by a local authority the Bill contains measures to force services out to an open market procurement exercise. Therefore far from this Bill encouraging the involvement of the third sector the Bill will enable, through an enforced procurement process, open market tendering of our public services in much the same way as the discredited compulsory competitive tendering (CCT) process, leading to more privatisation and the exploitation of third sector providers to bid for services at the lowest cost.

This Conference notes that

1) The Localism Bill cynically uses the third sector in order to facilitate arrangements to procure public services on an open market basis. Some third sector organisations, including service provider organisations as well as umbrella bodies like ACEVO, have misguidedly bought into the agenda of outsourcing and cutting workforce terms and conditions

2) Third sector providers or employee mutual arrangements are not democratically accountable models and could lead to bids for public service contracts being placed on the basis of lowest cost rather than quality measures

3) Enforced procurement routes are less, not more likely, to involve third sector bidders which paves the way for private sector for profit providers to take over council services, or risks changing the nature of third sector organisations, into low-cost, generic service providers, if they are to compete for contracts.

4)This Tory-led government is stepping back from equalities requirements in public service procurement, so the needs of women, Black, disabled, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT), younger and older service users are less likely to be met;

5)Some of the third sector organisations planning to bid to take over public services are run by religious organisations whose ethos is hostile to LGBT people;

6)With more private bodies and community groups taking on public service provision, there is a risk that these services may not in future be subject to the fundamental protections contained in the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) under the Equality Act 2010;

7)Many of the other provisions of the Bill – including local referendums, Community Right to Buy and planning provisions -contain insufficient safeguards to ensure fair consideration of the needs of all groups within a locality and the human rights implications of decision making.

This Conference therefore calls upon the Service Group Executive to:-

a) Lobby Government, including the Shadow Secretary of State for Local Government, to oppose the procurement route contained within the Right to Challenge measures within the Localism Bill and to seek amendments to these provisions

b) Provide advice to branches on the operation of procurement processes to ensure that they are aware of the threats presented by this Bill and

c) Should the Bill be enacted to work with third sector providers to encourage them to take a collaborative approach with local authorities rather than utilising the provisions in the Bill to force an open market procurement process which will be open to exploitation by the private sector.

Conference further calls on the SGE to lobby Government to include measures in the Bill to ensure:

d)That where services are provided and decisions are made by private entities and third sector organisations rather than public bodies, there is no reduction in the protection afforded by the Human Rights Act and the PSED.

e)Effective engagement of underrepresented groups in decision making and that local decision making must involve, reflect and balance the needs of all communities within a locality.