Heather Jameson 27 November 2006

Lyons may ‘never be made public’

The Lyons review on local government finance may never be published, a spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government has confirmed.
 
Despite press reports about delays earlier this week, the DCLG said: ‘Sir Michael Lyons will report his findings to ministers. We have never set out a timetable in terms of publication.’
 
He added: ‘We have never made a commitment to publish the report at all.’
 
But Local Government Association chairman Lord Bruce-Lockhart said: ‘We expected it to be published immediately. There is no possible reason for further delay.’
 
Sir Michael is due to report his findings on funding to Chancellor Gordon Brown, and communities and local government minister, Ruth Kelly, by 21 December. This deadline will not be delayed as Sir Michael is planning an eight-month sabbatical, starting at Christmas. So far, he has remained tight-lipped about contents of the paper, and has refused to rule out – or rule in – any of the proposed changes to the finance system put to him. Plans put forward have included reformed council tax and business rates and charges for services – including waste collection charges and tourist taxes.
 
A top finance spokesman has called on the Government to abolish capping, improve council tax and relocalise the business rates.
 
Chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA), Steve Freer, said the Government’s handling of capping would ‘speak volumes’ about how it really saw councils.
 
The DCLG has faced repeated criticism over its delays to reforming the balance of funding, first for commissioning the Lyons review, then for delaying revaluation and extending the review.
 
Ms Kelly also faced tough criticism for putting the White Paper before any changes to finance which might come out of the Lyons review.
 
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