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Safeguards sought over EU target fines

Details of safeguards for councils liable for EU fines if they miss targets including recycling goals have been set out by the government.

Ministers have launched a consultation on new measures which will allow central government to pass on any costs incurred when councils fall foul of European directives.

The consultation sets out plans for an independent panel which will prevent ministers from arbitrarily passing on fines and gives local government a voice in the creation of new EU directives for which the sector could become financially liable.

The measures to involve local government in the process follows successful lobbying to amend a controversial section of the Localism Act.

Merrick Cockell LGA

LGA chairman Sir Merrick Cockell, right, said: “We’ve come a long way since the government first proposed that ministers could force local authorities and taxpayers to pay EU fines of around £1bn for missing European targets on recycling and air pollution. The LGA and GLA were pleased to have stopped this in its tracks and convinced government to rethink its policy.

“Now that a consultation on this issue has opened, we will be pushing for assurances that this fair process is upheld, so that any move to require contributions from councils must go through the toughest of scrutiny by Parliament.”

The consultation documents sets out a plan for an independent panel to be formed if a public body’s actions led to the government to face an EU fine.

Panel members including the chairman are to be appointed by ministers but should include “members from outside central government”, the document says. The panel would include an LGA-nominated panel member, although the minister could refuse a nomination, and the council liable for the fine would be informed of the membership.

The panel would advise the minister between the time he issued a warning notice and issued a final notice to the liable authority. The consultation says the council should have a minimum of four weeks to provide evidence that it had taken every possible step to be compliant and to make representations about ability to pay.

First reported by our sister title LGC

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