Government consultation on local authorities being obliged to
pay its EU fines
Under the Localism Act 2011, if the Government
is fined by the Court of Justice of the EU for failure to meet
environmental targets, it is entitled to require local authorities
or other public authorities who may have contributed to or be
responsible for the Government to be in breach to pay the fine
rather than pay the fine itself. An obvious example of where this
might happen is in relation to the failure to meet air quality
standards, a default which is widespread across the country.
The consultation sets out four principles.
- First, when negotiating and transposing EU
legislation, the government will work with all bodies which might
potentially be affected.
- Secondly, the government will allow bodies
affected in a particular case time to put matters right before the
passing of any penalty.
- Thirdly, an independent panel of experts will
be appointed to ensure that the government's decision in any case
is fair, reasonable and proportionate and is only applied to bodies
which can rightly be said to have contributed to the government's
- Finally, bodies required to pay the fine will
be able to make representations on the amount to be paid.
In essence, the principles are designed to
avoid the government simply passing the buck: before a body can be
liable to pay, the government must have provided it with the tools
to enable compliance and must have been responsible in some way for