Government to “fully fund” all new Environment Bill “burdens” on councils

Government will “fully fund” all new “burdens” on local authorities arising from its just-published Environment Bill in order to “make our ambition a reality”, Government has told councils.

In a letter to local authorities, Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers has set out what the Environment Bill means for councils and has stated that central government will “fully fund” all new “burdens” that arise from it.

The Environment Bill, published yesterday (30 Jan), sets out a series of legislative measures that aim to tackle climate change, biodiversity loss and environmental risks.

Your leadership on environmental improvements – to reverse decades of biodiversity loss, improve air quality and deliver net zero – is critical

The letter states the Bill that through the Bill, Government is “bolstering” the role of local leaders on tackling environmental issues by providing additional powers and flexibilities to deliver action.

These will include:

  • improved and increased powers to take more effective action to tackle the environmental challenges in your area;
  • greater certainty on how to plan effectively for the local environment, including taking a strategic look at how to improve nature in your area;
  • mandating biodiversity net gain to provide more certainty and simplicity for developers, and ensuring that all new developments enhance biodiversity and help deliver thriving natural spaces for communities
  • ensuring that producers can be held responsible for the full net costs of managing products at end of life, reducing your financial burdens from waste management, including litter collection
  • stronger abilities to improve health and social outcomes for your local citizens; and
  • supporting you as place shapers, through new tools and data for effective spatial planning.

“Local government has a vital role to play responding to challenges at a local level, leading specific and locally appropriate responses and driving innovation,” Villiers writes. “You, as local experts of your communities, must be empowered to play a key part in delivering the environmental action needed in your areas.”

Villiers write that with these additional powers, the Bill will create a framework in which “strong local government leadership will become increasingly important”.

“Your leadership on environmental improvements – to reverse decades of biodiversity loss, improve air quality and deliver net zero – is critical,” she writes.

She also told councils that Defra will make sure collected data, evidence and advice is “tailored” to aid local authorities with your “enhanced environmental role” under the Bill. Any new duties or reporting requirements are designed to be as “streamlined as possible”, and will be implemented as such, to minimise additional burdens, she writes.

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