Localism Bill has huge implications

IF all goes as planned by the Government, the implications of the Localism Bill could be huge – with the shifting of power from central government into the hands of individuals, communities and councils around England.

The Bill – introduced to House of Commons in December and still making its way through the different stages in Parliament – aims to encourage the empowered to step out of the darkness of bureaucracy to create their own Utopia and have a big say in how things should be done in their area.

The Government says the new rights and powers will make it easier for people to take over the amenities they love and keep them part of local life.

Social enterprises, voluntary and community groups with a bright idea for improving local services will all get a chance to change how things are done.

The Bill will also give the electorate a new way to voice its opinions on issues close to its heart and enable residents to call local authorities to account for the careful management of taxpayers’ money.

Outlining what the Localism Bill is trying to achieve, decentralisation minister Greg Clark said: “For too long, central Government has hoarded and concentrated power.

“Trying to improve people’s lives by imposing decisions, setting targets, and demanding inspections from Whitehall simply doesn’t work – it creates bureaucracy.

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“It leaves no room for adaptation to reflect local circumstances or innovation to deliver services more effectively and at lower cost and leaves people feeling imposed upon.

“This is the very opposite of the sense of participation and involvement on which a healthy democracy thrives, and I have long believed there is a better way of doing things.

“We think that the best means of strengthening society is not for central government to try to seize all the power and responsibility for itself but to help people and their locally-elected representatives to achieve their own ambitions. This is the essence of the Big Society.

“The Localism Bill sets out a series of proposals with the potential to achieve a substantial and lasting shift in power away from central Government and towards local people.”

The Government says the Bill will reform the planning system to make it clearer, more democratic and effective by placing more influence in the hands of residents over issues that make a big difference.

The wide-ranging Bill will provide appropriate support and recognition to communities who welcome new development, the Government has said, and make it easier for authorities to get on with the job of working with its residents to draw up a vision for their area’s future.

Councillors will also be empowered to play a full and active part in local life without fear of legal challenge.

But there are strong concerns that empowering communities to shape the look of their area through neighbourhood development plans would give rise to nimbyism. There are concerns that the new powers would allow for an agitated few to force referenda on people who don’t want them at a high cost to the taxpayer.

There are also fears that businesses’ growth plans could be shackled or stifled at the hands of the empowered community and that poorer areas across the region would struggle to find the money, the manpower, or even the desire, to unite to take on the running of local services.