Decentralisation and the Localism Bill

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Consultation to include a community right to challenge in the Localism Bill

What the Big Society is about, what the Localism Bill is about and what commissioning might look like

 

The Localism Bill went before parliament in December 2010 and is expected to become law sometime this autumn.  The bill is one of the central planks of its Decentralisation Policy and although it will not come into force before the autumn it already seems to be influencing local decisions, especially in the area of planning.
The key features of the bill are …

  • The Bill will devolve significant new powers to councils giving them new freedoms and flexibilities to act in the best interests of their area.
  • There will be new rights for local people to challenge or take over services, to bid to buy local assets such as libraries, pubs and shops and to veto excessive council tax rises.
  • The Bill will give local control over planning decisions, removing regional strategies for both residential and commercial development. There will be changes in planning permission allowing local communities to have more say over decisions.
  • The Bill will return decision-making powers on housing to local councils and communities through a new Community Right to Build.  This will give communities the freedom to come together to build new homes and amenities.
  • The Bill will put councils in charge of allocation and tenure of social housing. It will be easier for social tenants to relocate though a new National Homeswap Scheme. Tenants will be able, more easily, to hold their landlords to account for services provided.
  • The Bill will give local government a stronger financial stake in the local economy, to attract local business by allowing discretionary business rate discounts; making small business tax breaks easier to access.

(Summarised from a speech by Eric Pickles on 13 December 2010)
For more information DCLG have provided an ‘Essential Guide’.
The YMCA have also produced a very helpful four page briefing.

Of course not everybody is as enthusiastic about the bill as the government!
To see some informed reaction to the bill can be found through the following links …

The Urban Forum could be summarised as ‘great if it works but …’
Ekklesia come from a socially aware Christian perspective but highlight concerns of the Humanist Society about faith equality.  They also raise the issue about the effects of cuts on these reforms.  Could localism be shifting responsibility for cuts from central government to local government and on to local communities … perish the thought!

However we view the bill it will mean that churches, as local organisations who care for their communities, will need to be engaged and look out for those who may get left behind.

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Consultation to introduce a Community Right to Challenge
This consultation sets out the provisions being made by Government in the Localism Bill to introduce a Community Right to Challenge.  Your comments are sought on the detail of how the Right will work in practice and your views on what type of support and guidance should be provided.  Go to www.communities.gov.uk/publications/localgovernment/righttochallengeconsultation

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Useful Big Society links
The chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy has produced a short document outlining what the Big Society is about, what the localism bill is about and what commissioning might look like. They are also involved in delivering commissioning training to local charities and organisations. The document is really clear. If you want to get to the heart of these three significant government initiatives then read on: Download a copy at: http://www.cipfa.org.uk/panels/charity/publications.cfm CIPFA also has a ‘Big Society’ website at: http://www.cipfa.org.uk/bigsociety/

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