The National Association of Local Councils (NALC) has backed two tier local government in its latest contribution to the UK devolution debate, calling for the creation of unitary principal authorities coupled with the establishment of new parish councils.
A national gathering of parish leaders in Westminster yesterday demanded all political parties should realise the potential of parish councils as a vehicle for decentralising power to local communities as part of a new constitutional settlement for the UK.
NALC feels that real progress to devolution to grassroots councils and communities would happen more efficiently and effectively by the creation of unitary principal authorities, provided they are coupled with more empowered parish councils with devolved functions and services.
Chairman of NALC, Cllr Ken Browse said: "NALC's Manifesto calls for communities to be in more control of their areas; devolution to local government, especially parish councils, can help do just that.
"I am urging all political parties to seize this once in a generation opportunity and ensure the answer to the 'English question' goes much wider than Westminster, with power being driven down into the hands of local people and their democratically elected representatives.
"The next government should set out a new settlement for England including devolving more power and decision making down to communities through parish councils."
Although not commenting on NALC's call for the creation of more unitary principal authorities, Cllr Marianne Overton, vice-chair of the Local Government Association (LGA) also spoke at the meeting of NALC's National Council and said: "Genuine devolution for England, Scotland and Wales will give us the freedom and flexibility to be able to tackle these big issues and only constitutional and secure financial independence for local government will deliver this.
"We support NALC's call for the future settlement on devolution in England to involve all tiers of local government and parish councils must be at the heart of this."