Voluntary groups and local authorities split on 'right to challenge' timescales

Local groups say there should be a maximum period of time for councils to consider their bids to run public services, according to consultation

Communities and Local Government department
Communities and Local Government department

A consultation on the community right to challenge has demonstrated a divide between voluntary groups and local authorities over whether councils should be given a set period of time in which they would have to consider local groups’ expressions of interest.

The right to challenge, under which local groups could challenge public bodies that deliver public services by putting in a bid to deliver those services themselves, is a key part of the Localism Bill.

The consultation on the proposal asked local authorities, voluntary and community groups, parish councils and other groups for feedback on its planned introduction.

A summary of the consultation responses, published by the Communities and Local Government department last week, shows respondents were asked whether there should be a maximum period in which councils must make a decision on the bids.

It shows all 25 of the voluntary groups that responded said there should be. However, 35 of 59 local authorities that responded said there should not.

Asked whether there should be a minimum period for councils to make a decision on the bids, 59 of the 70 council respondents said there should not, but 16 of 28 voluntary groups said there should.

The document also shows nine respondents warned of the risk that external groups would "cherry-pick" services or parts of services that could be more cheaply or easily delivered or could be more lucrative. This would leave councils delivering "a less sustainable, more expensive or unviable part of the service", it says.

The Localism Bill is currently before parliament and is due to be debated in the House of Lords once the recess ends next month.

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