Localism is Strengthened Today?

Today, yet more measures in the Localism Act 2011 come into force. The Government says it wants a bottom up democracy – it wants to wipe away red tape and give local people the power they need to shape their local area.  With the less than democratic  EU lurking silently behind so much policy change – we will see.

Today’s  new key measures (or commencement orders) to hand back control, include:

  • General power of competence – All English local authorities, including eligible parish councils, can legally do anything an individual can do unless specifically prohibited by law. (This should give councils that want to hold formal prayers the confidence and legal standing to do so.) This also gives councils more freedom to work together creatively and innovatively to improve services and reduce costs. It does seem amazing that this was not in place already, isn’t this the basis of English Common Law?  And, do council’s really need to be ‘given’ the power to innovate; didn’t our Victorian ancestors to just that with their vision, philanthropy and civic pride !!!!  So often, it is their legacy we are fighting to retain.
  • Local discounts – Councils can aim their own businesses rate discounts in the most effective way for the local economy. This could encourage new business investment, support local shops, or community services. Councils are being encouraged to consier this power alongside the Government’s ‘Portas Pilots’ plans.  One only hopes that career public servants consult with people who know something about business – the last thing we need is more discounted rents for charity shops, whilst local startup’s cannot find reasonable rents in good locations.  Our area needs employment.
  • Community Right to Build – Communities will be able to do their own development.  So, communities will be able to build family homes to sell, affordable housing for rent, sheltered housing for older local residents, or low-cost starter homes for young local families struggling to get on the housing ladder.  What is there stopping a parish council doing this now?
  • New planning enforcement rules – Councils will be able to take action against people who deliberately conceal unauthorised development.  We thought they had the power to do this already !!  The power not to have a single inspector overturn a planning decision supported by local people would be more useful to localism !!