Government uses new powers to direct Hackney

Five government departments have issued draft
directions to Hackney Council under new powers. The directions
require service improvements in social services, education, waste
management, and housing benefits, and a “tough” financial strategy
to balance the council’s budget.

The action represents the first ever use by
the government of intervention powers under the Local Government
Act 1999. Hackney has 14 days to make representations to the
government on the draft directions.

Hackney’s leader, councillor Jules Pipe, said
changes had taken place and progress had been made. He added: “The
draft directions reflect the discussions we have been having with
government and incorporate many of our suggestions for moving

The directions – intended to “safeguard
front-line services” and “tackle a legacy of financial
mismanagement” – include: production of a strategy to balance the
council’s budget and an action plan for a new system of financial
management; key staff recruitment and addressing skills gaps in
procurement and contract management; and development of Best Value
reviews for older people’s services and mental health services.

“The government is simply not prepared to let
the present situation continue,” said transport, local government
and the regions secretary Stephen Byers.

In June Byers had said he was “minded” to use
his intervention powers subject to advice from the Audit
Commission. In July a report by the commission recommended
government intervention.

The draft directions have been issued by the
following government departments: Transport, Local Government and
the Regions; Health; Work and Pensions; Education and Skills; and
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

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