Lack of clarity sparks illegal spending fear

  • Published: 27 November 2007 21:33
  • Last Updated: 27 November 2007 21:34

"Muddled thinking" could result in unelected partnerships taking unlawful decisions over billions of pounds of council cash, a leading local government lawyer has warned.

Mirza Ahmad, chair of the Bar Association for local government and the public service barristers, said government guidance on local area agreements may encourage local strategic partnerships to go beyond their legal remit on spending decisions.

He claims the Department for Communities & Local Government document Creating strong, safe and prosperous communities does not provide a legally watertight mechanism for LSP spending decisions.

The government wants councils, public bodies and businesses to come together with funds funnelled through LSPs increasing tenfold to £5bn per annum.

Mr Ahmad, also Birmingham City Council's chief legal officer, said: "LSPs cannot, as a matter of law, take executive decisions and the government must do more to stop muddled thinking among local government practitioners and civil servants.

"There is a danger that LSPs may make decisions which are the lawful domain of local authorities. From a citizens' point of view, this is concerning because local authorities are the elected representatives."

Mr Ahmad added that he will  suggest to Hazel Blears, communities and local government secretary, that one solution would be for councils to transfer powers on spending decisions to a cabinet member who also sits on the LSP board.