Speaking at the Local Government Association’s annual conference in Harrogate, Michael Gove said the new body would be set up to assess local government performance across England.
Mr Gove said the body would analyse existing data covering areas such as education, recycling, adult social care, and climate change to ensure it was “useful for local leaders, rather than an administrative burden”.
“As a result, taxpayers will be able to see which councils are going furthest on the environment, which have really transformative children’s services and which are providing the best value for money,” he added.
The body will produce an annual report on local government which Mr Gove said will “improve our understanding in central government of the picture across local government.”
“So, we know where action needs to be taken, where support needs to be given and what it is that we need to do,” he added.
Plans for an independent body collating data on local government performance were first announced in the levelling up white paper earlier this year but were not included in the Levelling up and regeneration Bill that followed it in May. However, LGC understands discussions have been ongoing with the LGA.
The levelling up secretary also announced that next year’s financial settlement for local government would be multi-year, covering two financial years.
“From next year I will be introducing a two-year financial assessment to give you additional certainty and confidence,” Mr Gove said.
In an interview with LGC prior to the speech, Mr Gove said the fair funding review of how resources are distributed between councils - which has been in train since 2016 - would be completed "this calendar year".
He told delegates the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities would launch a consultation on it’s new funding approach.
“I do hope that it will allow you to plan ahead with a greater degree of confidence and really focus on the delivery of great local public services,” he said.
Mr Gove also said DLUHC would look to reduce the number of funding pots and streams that local government are able to bid into in order to reduce burdens on the sector.
“The number of central government funds into which [local authorities] bid is in the hundreds and the amount of bureaucracy around it is a significant burden on local government,” Mr Gove said.
“So, we’re looking closely at what we can do and we will reduce the number of streams, reduce the number of pots and reduce the burdens on you.
“The certainty of funding simplification is good news for local government,” Mr Gove said, “but we all know that this difficult economic period isn’t going to end overnight.”
The RSN will, of course, review the promised consultation paper from a rural perspective as soon as it comes out and will consult RSN members on a draft response.
Sign up to our newsletter to receive all the latest news and updates.