Lyons Inquiry Final Report and Recommendations
Lyons Inquiry Press Notice: 21 March 2007
Sir Michael Lyons today published the much anticipated final report from his independent Inquiry into the future role, function and funding of local government - Place-shaping: a shared ambition for the future of local government.
Sir Michael argues that local government is an essential part of our system of government today. Its place-shaping role - using powers and influence creatively to promote the well-being of a community and its citizens - is crucial to help improve satisfaction and prosperity through greater local choice and flexibility.
Sir Michael calls for a new partnership between central and local government. This needs to be based on changes in behaviours from all tiers of government to achieve a stronger relationship creating a shared ambition for the future. He calls on central government to leave more room for local discretion and recognise the value of local choice; while local government needs to strengthen its own confidence and capability, engage more effectively with local people, make best use of existing powers, and stop asking for central direction. He also concludes that council tax is not 'broken', but is seen as unfair and has been put under too much pressure.
Sir Michael presents a mosaic of reforms which tackle a complex set of problems. They include essential reforms in the short-term to tackle the most urgent problems and more radical reform options for future governments.
Short term recommendations include:
- greater flexibility for local authorities to place-shape with less control from the centre by reducing specific and ring fenced grants, a new power to levy a supplementary business rate in consultation with business, and a new power to charge for domestic waste to help manage pressures on council tax, and an end to capping of council tax;
- changes to improve fairness of council tax, recognising that council tax benefit is a rebate, automating the system to ensure the 1.8billion in unclaimed benefit helps the poorest households, and raising the savings limit for pensioners to 50,000;
- improving transparency in the funding system by being clear about the contribution made by national taxation, and ensuring a more independent voice to inform Parliament and the public; and
- improving incentives for local authorities to promote economic prosperity and growth, initially through reform of the Local Authority Business Growth Incentives Scheme.
In the medium term the Government should:
- revalue council tax to update the tax base and improve fairness;
- at the same time, reform council tax by adding new bands to reduce bills for those in the lowest value properties, paid for by increased bills for those in higher value properties paying more - there should be no increase in average council tax bills as a result of this;
- consider assigning a fixed proportion of income tax to local government;
- find ways to improve the incentives within the grant system; and
- consider introducing the power to levy a tourist tax if local government makes a strong case based on local public support - this would be appropriate only in some areas.
In the longer term, future governments could consider more radical reform options such as local income tax or re-localisation of the business rate, but these reforms may require greater public support and understanding than currently exists.
Some of these changes can start immediately, building on current changes to the performance framework and Local Area Agreements; others can be taken forward in the Comprehensive Spending Review; whilst some require primary legislation. This package of reforms is designed to set out a developmental approach towards a more devolved and ambitious future for local government, based on improving relationships between central and local government, better local choices, more effective management of pressures, and greater public trust in the system as a whole.
Notes for Editors
- Further details of the conference can be found at: www.lyonsinquiryconference.com
- Sir Michael was commissioned in July 2004 by the Deputy Prime Minister and the Chancellor to make recommendations on how to reform the local government funding system, by December 2005.
- On 20 September 2005 the remit of the Inquiry was extended to enable Sir Michael to consider issues of function before finalising his conclusions on funding.
- On 15 December 2005 Sir Michael issued a consultation paper and interim report. A further paper was published on 8th May 2006 entitled "National Prosperity, local choice and civic engagement".
- On 6 December 2006 the Chancellor announced a short extension to Sir Michael's Inquiry for him to consider the implications of the Eddington, Barker and Leitch Reviews before finalising his report.
- Copies of reports, submissions, research commissioned and the terms of reference for the Inquiry can be found on the Lyons Inquiry Website at http://www.lyonsinquiry.org.uk, and also at http://www.webarchive.org.uk/tep/15454.html
Issued on behalf of the Lyons Inquiry by GNN London.
For further information contact Nicola Croden, Lyons Inquiry - 07785 975 226.