This week’s policy updates from our Lead Members on LGA policy boards includes news and information from:
- Children and Young People
- Safer Communities
Regular updates on the work of the LGA Lib Dems on policy boards will be published on the ALDC website and feedback on any of the matters raised is encouraged.
Children and Young People
Lead member – Cllr Liz Green
“Middle tier” in education already exists Mr Gove!
As we all know things move quickly in the Department of Education and Michael Gove likes to put his stamp on everything! He can’t even accept the obvious – that a middle tier in Education is the Local Authority – so he has invented one. The school commissioners do not need primary legislation, so he has just introduced it. See http://news.tes.co.uk/news_blog/b/weblog/archive/2013/12/05/dfe-advertises-for-163-140k-a-year-commissioners-to-oversee-academies-and-free-schools.aspx for an article about it, if you don’t know the details.
We need to make sure our Liberal Democrat response is robust. I don’t think it’s about improving standards or ensuring sufficient places. I also don’t believe it can work as regional quangos just don’t know what local actually means. But I do worry that it is another way of increasing academisation – I feel sure that the Ofsted category of ‘requires improvement’ (the old ‘satisfactory’ category) will soon end up with forced academisation like the ‘inadequate’ category already does.
What we must do, as a party, is make it clear this is not our solution to school improvement and school place planning. As Councillors, we need to try and keep some school improvement skills in our Local Authorities. As campaigners, we should listen to our communities and then provide the best solution to the individual schools that need them.
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/tackling-underperformance-in-weak-primary-schools – articles like this on the DfE website, really make me mad. It’s as if Councils never improved a school, and academy chains never failed.
Children and Families Bill
Having said that Gove likes his own way, we have some major successes to celebrate:
The Children and Families Bill threatened to remove adopter recruitment from all Local Authorities at the whim of the Secretary of State. We worked with the Lib Dem Lords team, and got it changed to that, so that it will have to be approved by both houses before he could action it.
Free School Meals
Free school meals for all infant pupils is a major win for the party. It is not only popular, but a good policy. A good meal means better concentration, better behaviour and better results. There will be some difficulties in providing the kitchens in some areas, but again our ministers came up trumps. David Laws and Nick Clegg secured £150m for capital work – money that was earmarked for the free school projects! This is great campaigning policy in action, along with the increases in pupil premium.
Funding formula for schools
Going forward, we need to consider a fairer national funding formula for schools, improving children’s services, protecting vulnerable in ever decreasing budgets and whatever Michael Gove thinks up next.
If, like me, you could talk education all day – come along to the Lib Dem education conference in Nottingham on 14 & 15 February. David Laws will be there to answer questions and we’ll be talking about 2015 manifesto ideas as well as various workshops. It’s run by the Lib Dems at LGA with the Lib Dem Education Association and details are available from me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Lead Member – Cllr Lisa Brett
The Safer and Stronger Communities Board (SSCB) oversees LGA activity in the promotion of safety in local communities.
Tackling sexual violence against children and vulnerable people
I am working with the Home Office to discuss tackling sexual violence against children and vulnerable people. It is clear that tackling this issue will require multi-agency response and coordination across a range of policy areas, operational partners and experts in the field. It is critical that arrangements are in place so that Children and Adults Social Care Services, the Police, the Criminal Justice System and others build upon the important lessons learnt from exposed cases of historical child sexual abuse and child sexual exploitation.
Helping women affected by female genital mutilation
At the same time I am challenging the LGA itself to provide best practice guidance for local authorities wanting to commission services specifically targeted at women affected by female genital mutilation (FGM). Together with my Lib Dem colleagues on Health & Wellbeing and the Children & Young Peoples’ Programme Boards, I am keen for the LGA to have a high profile in lobbying Central Government to support initiatives aimed at eliminating the illegally practice of FGM in the UK.
Stop and Search
Towards the end of 2013 the SSCB agreed a cross-party response to the Home Office’s stop and search review. Although the review explored key areas of effectiveness, fairness and balancing public protection with the preservation of freedom, we felt it failed to take note of the impact of stop and search on community cohesion. We therefore suggested that a responsibility to consult the community about the force’s policy on the use of stop and search powers could be placed on the Police and Crime Commissioner.
Powers of PCSOs – any views?
The LGA will be responding this month to the Home Office consultation on the powers of police community support officers (PCSOs). A limited number of stakeholders have been invited to feedback views on whether the list of powers that can be conferred on PCSOs should be expanded, and I shall be feeding into the LGA response. Let me know any thoughts.
Detailed below is the Safer Communities Board’s work plan for 2014.
- Resilience and Crime: Impact of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013, Transforming Offender Rehabilitation, review the Serious and Organised Crime Strategy, and tackling Violence, Abuse & Trafficking.
- Community Safety: Supporting Community Cohesion, Victims Service, Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, Responding to national emergencies, support for Councils and Community Safety Partnerships
- Communications: Anti-Social Behaviour Conference, Community Safety Conference and Licensing Conference
- Local regulation: A review of licensing regimes for a common legal framework, support for the cultural changes happening within local regulation and the building of national business relationships.
- National Resilience: Build a shared understanding between Police & Crime Commissioners and Local Authorities through a Joint Strategic Partnership Board with the Association of Police & crime Commissioners, review and provide support to Police and Crime Panels.