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Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009

Chapter 1: General Duty of Local Authorities
Summary

14.This Chapter imposes duties on local authorities to promote understanding among local people of the opportunities that exist for members of the public to get involved in, and influence, the decisions made by local authorities and other local public bodies.

15.The duties apply to both England and Wales.

Commentary on Sections
Section 1 - Democratic arrangements of principal local authorities

16.Subsection (1) places a duty on principal local authorities to promote understanding of their functions and their democratic arrangements. “Democratic arrangements” are defined under subsection (3). The subsection also requires those authorities to promote understanding of how members of the public can take part in those arrangements and what taking part is likely to involve.

17.Subsection (2) expands on subsection (1)(c) to require principal local authorities to promote understanding of the role of councillors, how to become one, and the support that is available to councillors to assist them in their role.

18.Subsection (3) defines the principal local authorities on whom the duty is placed. This covers all county and district councils in England (including unitary authorities), London borough councils and the Common Council of the City of London, and county and county borough councils in Wales.

19.Subsection (3) also defines “democratic arrangements” to mean the arrangements for people to participate in or influence the making of decisions including where those decisions are made by the local authority in partnership or conjunction with any other person. This would include opportunities for people to participate in or influence decision-making such as by:

  • standing and serving as a councillor;

  • voting to elect representatives;

  • making representations to councillors and other directly elected representatives including by submitting petitions;

  • taking part in consultations, formal forums, panels and public meetings, including attending the public parts of council meetings;

  • taking on a civic role such as school governor or independent custody visitor.

Section 2 - Democratic arrangements of connected authorities

20.Subsection (1) places a duty on principal local authorities to promote understanding among local people of public bodies (referred to as ‘connected authorities’) which relate to the authority’s area. It requires principal local authorities to promote understanding of what these bodies do and their democratic arrangements, as defined in section 1(3). It also requires them to promote understanding of how members of the public can take part in those arrangements and what taking part is likely to involve.

21.Subsections (2) and (3) specify what the connected authorities are in England. These are public bodies or persons that have a strong local presence, making decisions that are directly relevant to local people in the principal local authority’s area and include:

  • health bodies;

  • police bodies;

  • fire and rescue authorities;

  • waste bodies;

  • schools and Further Education colleges;

  • National Park and Broads authorities;

  • transport authorities;

  • economic prosperity boards and combined authorities;

  • probation services;

  • parish councils and meetings;

  • for a county council in a two-tier area, a district council;

  • for a district council in a two-tier area, a county council;

  • for London boroughs and the Common Council of the City of London, the Greater London Authority and Transport for London.

22.The inclusion of the chief officer of police as a “connected authority” means that the principal local authority is expected to promote understanding about the work of the police force itself, and not just the work of the police authority. This includes “neighbourhood policing” in which every area has a neighbourhood policing team and “the policing pledge” which sets out both locally and nationally the standards the public can expect from the police.

23.Subsections (4) and (5) specify what the connected authorities are in Wales. Subsection (4) largely replicates, in relation to Wales, the provisions of subsection (2), save that the connected authorities do not include Further Education colleges nor those bodies which operate only in England but include equivalent Welsh bodies where appropriate.

24.Subsection (6) enables the “appropriate national authority” (the Secretary of State for England and the Welsh Ministers for Wales) by order to:

  • add any person or body who has functions of a public nature to the list of connected authorities;

  • remove a connected authority from the list of connected authorities;

  • add or remove functions of the Secretary of State on the list of connected authorities.

Section 3 - Monitoring boards, courts boards and youth offending teams

25.This section places a duty on principal local authorities to promote understanding among local people of courts boards, independent monitoring boards for prisons and immigration removal centres and Youth Offending Teams (“YOTs”).

  • Courts boards give advice and make recommendations to achieve effective and efficient administration of the courts.  This advisory role extends across the civil, family and criminal jurisdictions.

  • Independent monitoring boards are appointed for every prison and immigration removal centre. They monitor conditions in the local prison or removal centre and ensure that proper standards of care and decency are maintained.

  • YOTs are established for every local authority in England and Wales and are responsible for co-ordinating the work of the youth justice services. YOTs identify the needs of each young offender and then identify suitable programmes to address those needs with the intention of preventing further offending.

26.Principal local authorities are required to provide information about what these bodies do, how members of the public can take part in their work and what this is likely to involve.

Section 4 - Lay justices

27.This section places a duty on principal local authorities to promote understanding among local people of lay justices. Lay justices are unsalaried magistrates, as opposed to “District Judges (Magistrates’ Courts)” (previously known as stipendiary magistrates) who are full-time salaried members of the judiciary. Principal local authorities are required to provide information about what lay justices do, how a member of the public can become a lay justice and what the role involves.

Section 5 - Provision of information

28.Subsections (1) and (2) provide that the duties in sections 2 to 4 do not apply to principal local authorities if information has not been provided by the connected authorities, monitoring boards, courts boards, youth offending teams and (in the case of lay justices) the Lord Chancellor, respectively, after it has been requested of them.

29.Subsections (3) and (4) provide the appropriate national authority with the power to make an order which would require one or more connected authorities or the bodies listed under section 3(2) to provide information to the principal local authorities. It is intended that this power will only be used if the intention of the duty is significantly frustrated by the failure of one or more authorities to provide the necessary information to the principal local authorities.

30.Subsection (5) provides that subsections (1) to (3) do not apply to a district council in a two-tier area, because alternative arrangements for those principal local authorities are covered in subsection (6).

31.Subsection (6) establishes how the duties in sections 2 to 4 operate in two-tier areas. Districts in two-tier areas are required to promote understanding of the matters in sections 1 to 4. However, county councils are responsible for requesting the information, at least once a year, from persons listed under sections 2, 3 and 4 on behalf of the district councils. The county council must then pass on information it receives to the district councils. Where a county has been informed of material changes to information previously disseminated to its district councils, it is required to inform them accordingly. District councils in two-tier areas will not have failed to meet their duties under sections 2, 3 and 4 if the necessary information has not been passed to them by the county council.

Section 6 – Guidance

32.This section provides that the appropriate national authority may produce guidance for principal local authorities on how to fulfil their duties under Chapter 1. Before guidance is given, it must be consulted upon with the relevant principal local authorities. This guidance may be given generally, or tailored to the needs of different councils if appropriate, and must be published. Principal local authorities must have regard to any statutory guidance which applies to them.

Section 7 - Isles of Scilly

33.This section provides the Secretary of State with the power to apply the duties in this Chapter, with or without modifications, to the Scilly Isles.

Section 8 - Orders under this Chapter

34.This section specifies that any order made under this Chapter is to be made by statutory instrument and is to be subject to negative resolution procedure.

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