Rory pushes for more power for local communities
Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Local Democracy, Rory, this week demanded more power for local communities whilst hosting the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham.
Speaking at the event, and drawing from his recent articles on localism, Rory said: “We must give local communities more power. Power to raise revenue, and to take decisions. We must ensure that they are actually democratic – that the structures are clear, and healthy, which link the representatives to their public. In Cumbria, we have had villages not only saving local pubs, but building 22-house affordable housing schemes; communities not just building cycle paths, but working out how to connect the most remote valleys to superfast broadband; not only taking over tourist information centres but also taking responsibility for planning policy. Each of these local initiatives springs from frustration at a lack of common-sense, at the failure of central government to deliver. Each community has recognised what needed to be done, how to do it more cheaply and effectively, and has succeeded.”
“The state must now recognise this success; must respect the knowledge, the skill, the adaptability of living communities; and get out of the way. Officials should recognise how little they understand about the history and context of particular local communities. The state must learn in the most generous and human sense to delegate: to trust that when local communities are given responsibility, they will treasure it and flourish.”
Rory has worked with NALC in leading the “What next for localism?” inquiry. It will examine how successful the government has been in giving power away to local communities, and to parish and town councils in particular. The event was also used to launch a series of articles by key thinkers across the political spectrum, all providing their own answers to the question “What next for localism?”
The inquiry was welcomed by the new minister for Local Government, Brandon Lewis MP who said: “The Localism Act is not the end, it is just the beginning. We’re looking to do far more than we’ve already done. This is a really exciting time for local government across the board, the chances are there and it’s up to us to make the most of these opportunities”
The Chairman of NALC, Councillor Michael Chater OBE, welcomes the government’s commitment to the localism agenda, but also challenges both those in central government and at the parish and town council level, to do more, saying: “We must come up with radical new ideas to help hyper local democracy truly flourish into the future. The Localism Act does not mark the end of our ambitions for local councils, it marks the start of the next phase. This might mean new powers, reform of old ones, red tape swept away, more investment in some initiatives and less in others, radical changes in practice and procedure, much more innovation and creativity. We want this discussion to be open, transparent and inclusive – that’s why we’ve set up this microsite. We want to hear your ideas to help shape the future for local councils and help us answer the question – what next for localism?”
People are being encouraged to contribute to the enquiry – through a dedicated website at – www.whatnextforlocalism.org – where they can share their own ideas and rate and comment on other people’s submissions.