The Labour party has promised to hand more power to ‘cities and counties, towns and districts, parishes and neighbourhoods’ if it forms the next Government, a move strongly welcomed by the body which represents England’s most local councils.
The inclusion of town and parish councils in Labour’s devolution plans follows a similar commitment in the Liberal Democrat Party’s pre-manifesto.
In his conference speech Hilary Benn MP, Labour’s Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary, said: “Labour will honour the promise we made to Scotland and we will offer a new deal to England too. The people of England have been very patient and in that very English way, they are now saying “Excuse me, but what about us?”
“Well, we are listening and that’s why Labour will offer England a new deal that will pass power down, money down, responsibility down.”
“I want cities and counties, towns and districts, parishes and neighbourhoods to make more decisions for themselves and to have more control over the money they raise and contribute. But I want that to be fair, because what we have now certainly isn’t.”
Representatives from the National Association of Local Councils were at the conference in Manchester to launch their ‘Communities in control’ manifesto and discuss devolution to England’s 9,000 town and parish councils with politicians and policy makers.
NALC’s Manifesto includes policy ideas to help the next Government realise its ambitions for devolution and realise the potential of town and parish councils, including setting up grassroots councils in all unparished areas of the UK.
Speaking at a fringe event hosted by Civic Voice, NALC’s Head of Policy and Development, Justin Griggs said: “Town and parish councils are the backbone of our democracy and at the heart of many communities in England. They provide our neighbourhoods, villages and towns with a democratic voice and a structure for taking action – real people power at grassroots level.
“We need more local democracy with more empowered people and places. Our manifesto calls on the political parties to put communities more in control of their areas through strengthening local democracy, fairer funding and more powers.”
“Our vision is to improve the quality of life for local communities through having vibrant, dynamic and effective town and parish councils. NALC wants to work with the next Government to turn this vision into a reality.”
Chairman of NALC, Cllr Ken Browse, said: “The 2015 general election provides an opportunity for politicians of all parties to support our most local level of governance.”
“A chance to demonstrate their commitment to citizen-led action, which protects local assets and services and delivers responsive services based on local priorities – all of which improves lives and enhances communities.”
“We must have a new constitutional settlement and a stronger local democracy, with more powers for town and parish councils.”
NALC will also be at the Conservative conference in Birmingham and the Liberal democrat conference in Glasgow.