The National Association of Local Councils (NALC) has responded to the publication of the three main political parties manifestos with a series of radical ideas to empower local people and communities as part of devolution in the UK.
While welcoming the direction of travel from the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats to support further localism and devolution, in particular giving communities and local (parish and town) councils more powers to improve their areas, NALC has called on the parties to support a new 'parish deal'.
NALC represents over 9,000 grassroots councils and is pressing for the next government's devolution programme to include measures to provide a stronger local democracy and give local councils more powers and fairer funding.
Local council representatives gathered in London recently to discuss bolstering the NALC manifesto – published last Autumn at the main party conferences – with a further set of innovative and radical measures aimed at putting communities in control of their areas.
Proposals agreed by councillors at NALC's National Council included:
The opportunity for local councils to adopt more innovative and radical governance models such as a directly elected mayor or leader/cabinet
The creation of local councils across all of the UK, including further reform to community governance review process with mandatory referendums and a right of appeal
More powers through a Parish Councils Bill
Top slicing improvement funding from government to invest in building the capacity and capability of the local council sector
Fairer funding including the removal of the government power to require referenda on precept increases and devolution of a share of business rates to local councils
The new Local Council Award Scheme providing the means to assess the devolution capability of local councils
Cllr Ken Browse, chairman of NALC, said: "If the political parties are serious about devolution it must include a new 'parish deal."
"Local councils are the backbone of our democracy, with councillors dedicating over four million hours of their time every year to improve our neighbourhoods, towns and villages through the delivery of a wide range of local services.
"We must devolve more power down to the lowest level, giving people more of a voice and say over how their area is governed and run and providing the tools they need to make a real difference."
As part of its first ever Lobby Day in Westminster on 30 June 2015, representatives of local councils, county associations and NALC will be meeting with Members of Parliament to improve their awareness of local councils and better understand the benefits of grassroots democracy, representation and community action.