National Association of Local Councils (NALC) chief executive, Jonathan Owen, said: “England's 9,000 local (parish and town) councils are the backbone of local democracy, giving people a voice and structure for taking action. They are increasingly delivering more services to improve their area as austerity bites. They can provide very local services extremely cost effectively and should be part of the solution to the financial challenges the country faces.
“We would have liked the budget to say more about how devolution of power to communities and local people could help us meet the current financial challenges. There was much talk of creating ‘northern powerhouses’ but we’d like to see ‘localist powerhouses’ too with parishes and their volunteer support running a range of local services to reflect local circumstances. From providing shuttle buses to reduce traffic in towns, to building dementia friendly communities and supporting older people. From providing discretionary youth services to small highway maintenance. But to do these parishes need to be given the tools and fair funding to support this work.
“The chancellor, acknowledged recently how communities and very local councils are the unsung heroes of house building via neighbourhood planning. Very local councils have jumped in the driving seat to take up the mantle of shaping future development and housing in their areas. We believe parishes can do more in this and other areas too and we look forward to discussing with the Government accelerating the take up of neighbourhood planning and the further devolution of services.
“The Government has a fantastic chance to build on some of the building blocks laid over the last five years. A chance to truly empower the ‘localist powerhouse’ that is the parish councils' movement. And our neighbourhood, villages and towns want more more decentralisation and devolution.”