directly elected mayors

At a packed reception at the Conservative Party Conference last week, Rory hailed the work of communities in his constituency and called more powers to be devolved to local levels. He was joined by Nick Hurd MP, Minister for Civil Society, and Greg Clark MP, Minister for Decentralisation.

In the audience were a number of prominent Cumbrians including Libby Bateman, Project Officer of the Upper Eden Community Plan, Duncan Fairbairn, County Councillor and Portfolio Holder and Alick Grieve, agent for the Penrith and the Border Conservative Association.

Rory said: “Communities prove again and again that there are certain kinds of projects where communities know more, care more and can do more than distant experts.

Whether it’s working out how to organise the community pub buy-out, designing the neighbourhood plan, thinking through affordable housing or where to lay fibre-optic cable, what communities want is the ability to get on with it, to use their common sense, to be trusted rather than micro-managed.”

He added: “I would like to see this government devolve even more power to parish councils. Market towns, like Appleby and Kirkby Stephen, should also be given the right to directly elect mayors with meaningful powers.

This should be the aim of the government in the second-half of this parliament. The Localism Bill is a great start, but it doesn’t go far enough.”

Nick Hurd MP said: “I know parish councils are keen to do more and I’ve seen and heard some brilliant examples of your innovation, but I know there are issues about capacity and support.

We are keen to address this and look at how we can help, be it with principal authorities who don’t get it and are blocking and getting in the way, or to help you take on new powers and opportunities.

Make no mistake, this government is absolutely serious about doing something Governments aren’t good at, and that’s giving up power.”

Local government minister, Grant Shapps MP, added his support in a pamphlet launched at the event: “Parish councils are living proof that small is beautiful. The practice of neighbours coming together to decide how to administer local services and improve their area remains vital to the future of our democracy.

As we look to the future, Government is committed to helping parishes – and other forms of neighbourhood democracy – thrive. I see every prospect of parish councils continuing to grow in importance and prominence in the years to come, matching a long and rich heritage with a bright and busy future.”

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