National Association of Local Councils’ (NALC) Annual Conference held on Wednesday 19 and Thursday 20 October 2016, saw a direction for putting local (parish and town) councils and communities more in control of how their lives are run and public services delivered to them.
NALC further demanded that the government’s localism plans must include communities, neighbourhoods and local councils.
At the moment the government’s localism thinking seems to be concentrating on mainly on devolving powers and spending agreements to devolve powers from Whitehall departments to local areas. These areas are represented by consortiums of local principal (county, district, unitary or borough) authorities, coming together on a county-wide or sub-regional basis.
While these steps are welcome, this next phase of localism is by no means localist enough, nor is it bold enough. Devolution must not stop at the combined authority, county or district level.
Hundreds of delegates from local council and county association areas from around England gathered together to formulate a way forward for the sector to further turn the dreams of localism into a reality.
Marcus Jones MP, department of Communities and Local Government (CLG), local government minister, responded: “The government is pleased with the fantastic work many of you (local councils) are doing in bringing local devolution to life and encourage the further spread of this localist revolution.”
“You are the champions of local, visible action - demonstrating that it is possible to fix the street lighting or install CCTV, or use community action to save a post office or pub or set the planning agenda in your area.
“Further, by making that direct connection between local issues and local action, you help counter that oft voiced concern that “all politicians are the same”. This helps prove to electors that voting matters, which can only benefit everyone.”
“I believe that there’s never been a more exciting time to be part of a parish or town council, because there have never been such opportunities to cultivate better futures for our local communities. I value my good relations with the National Association and its Chair, Ken Browse, who I would particularly like to thank for all his hard work.”
Birmingham City Council leader, Cllr John Clancy, has committed the council to work with the local councils’ movement to develop local devolution deals within the city so making an evolution in devolution. The move follows the decision to create a new local council for Royal Sutton Coldfield, with the potential to localise delivery of many local services.
Cllr John Clancy, said: “ We want to work with the government and with organisations such as NALC to take forward this agenda, as we develop our Future Council vision for 2020. One approach might be to develop devolution deals within the city, unleashing the creativity and ideas in our communities.
“In 2018 we will reach a watershed in Birmingham’s local government when we move to smaller one or two member wards and a four year election cycle. By then we will have a fully established combined authority and we may also have an elected mayor for the West Midlands.”
“But it’s essential that we also develop a new approach to local democracy and local services at the most local level. That will enable us to put in place a bottom up neighbourhood democracy, unique in urban Britain.”
NALC’s Annual Conference overwhelming passed a motion opposing the government’s plans to extend council tax referendum principles to local councils.
Further the conference passed motions:
To encourage the creation of local councils across England and call on all the political parties to support this
To call for an urgent introduction of a right of appeal for communities where a principal authority decides not to establish a new local council
Cllr Ken Browse, chairman of NALC, said: “We have a real opportunity over this Parliament to build on this and establish local councils as ‘local powerhouses’, complementing the more strategic work of the proposed.
“NALC is really pleased that our members are fully behind us in our three key aims of providing value-for-money services, creating new councils and increasing membership, and giving the sector a strong national voice.”
NALC Annual Conference also saw exciting sessions on:
Improvement and Development
Star Councils Awards