Scores of MPs lined up in Parliament yesterday to signal their support for England’s localist powerhouse during a Lobby Day organised by the National Association of Local Councils (NALC).
Councillors representing over 10,000 local (parish and town) councils from across the country descended on Westminster for a day of action to raise the profile of our most local level of democracy in the Houses of Parliament. Local councillors engaged with over 60 MPs – including ministers and shadow ministers – to promote the benefits of local councils and how they are making a difference to areas and improving communities by giving people a voice, taking action on local priorities and delivering important local services. The local councils’ positive offer to the government and parliament on community empowerment, localism and devolution were central to discussions. Discussions included a range of measures which would put communities more in control of their areas through:
strengthening local democracy through the creation of more local councils;
more powers for local councils including in the planning system such as a community right of appeal and statutory consultee status;
fairer funding to help alleviate pressure on the precept, such as ensuring communities benefit from a share of business rates and through a greater share of the community infrastructure levy.
Lord Taylor of Goss Moor, president of NALC, said: “I want local councils to be allow to be properly engaged with all the public service consultations that take place at all levels.
“I believe it is very important to allow communities to have the right to have affordable housing in their areas. I believe the Government’s proposals on right to buy and changes with exceptions sites will be a real barrier to communities and local areas having affordable housing within it.”
“I believe neighbourhood planning is a revolutionary tool for community engagement and transformation. For example in my area, Roche we are using neighbourhood planning to encourage growth, alleviate transport concerns, make pavements safer and increase school allocations. Neighbourhood planning can deliver change. We need to make the case for much better financial and capacity building support for neighbourhood planning.”
Tom Brake MP commented: “I am very supportve of community politics. The Government is getting some things right with devolution but there is a real danger that it is not being pushed down to the community level. I really value the work of local councils. We want to see them take on more powers and will always challenge when powers are being centralised and taken away from local people.”
The chairman of NALC, Cllr Ken Browse said: "This was our second ever lobby day and the voice of communities was truly heard in Parliament. “I was delighted many of our county association representatives engaged with over 60 MPs yesterday, but I want to urge the rest to meet with representatives from our councils and county associations of local councils in the coming days and weeks. “New local councils are being created every year as a result of communities wanting more of a say over their area; so I’m particularly keen for MPs in unparished areas such as our larger towns and cities to engage with us and understand the benefits of grassroots democracy, representation and community action. “Devolution must be about more than just giving more power to the already powerful; we need to accelerate the cause of localism and truly empower the localist powerhouse that is the local council movement.”