NALC has responded today (28 October 2016) to the government stating its firm opposition to plans to extend referendum principles to local (parish and town) councils.
This government says they are great champions of localism through neighbourhood planning and devolution. Yet they seem determined on a centralist path on the finance of the first tier of democracy – local councils.
The most alarming and threatening proposal is to introduce compulsory and costly referendum for any local council that wishes to raise its share of the council tax by more than 2%. Mostly pennies per week per household and rarely a couple of pounds.
These councils are incredibly close to their communities, already engage formally with residents in many ways and are only responding to what local people want: saving public conveniences, providing local CCTV, promoting local housing solutions.
Local councils only raise a very small part of public expenditure. In 2016/17 the total public expenditure was £772bn and local councils account for only £445m of this, which works out at 0.058%. And in local government they only account for 1.7% of the total council tax bills.
This is a centralist sledgehammer to crack a nut for the only part of local government that still has genuine control over local taxation and will surely be a nail in the coffin of localism.