Travelled up to Scotland today for the latest meeting of the review group for trading and charging in Scottish local government. The meeting took place once again at Victoria Quay the civil service headquarters in Edinburgh.
Despite two hours of discussion we became a bit bogged down in trying to assess what areas of trading activity require close regulation and scrutiny and what bits can be left alone. If we get this correct there could be significant benefit for Scottish local government.
My own opinion is that anything that a local authority does directly for itself and for other public bodies can be deregulated, activity undertaken for the private sector or for organisations not wholly owned by the public sector becomes a bit more cloudy. This is where we became a bit bogged down, as some on the group see this as something that should just be a financial judgement, when in reality it must be considered in the round of case law and European procurement directives also.
I actually agree quite strongly with the civil servants on this one, that we really need to test some case studies to the limit to see what they tell us. We will then be in a position to make worthwhile recommendations to Ministers on guidance. I have always been of the view that poor scrutiny makes for poor legislation!