NALC's Making Local Economic Growth Work conference held on 13 December 2017, saw demands made to the Government that any of their economic development, devolution and localism plans must include communities, neighbourhood and local councils.
NALC wants to empower communities with more effective powers to tackle local issues, and have a greater say over decisions that affect them. Further to this NALC demands more devolution to local councils with strengthened relationships and engagement between all parts of national and local government.
The conference focussed on what local councils can do to create dynamic environments that encourage local economic growth to thrive and succeed. Many examples were highlighted that showed local councils being ‘place shapers’ bringing the private, voluntary and public sectors together to bring about positive economic change for local people.
The important themes for the one-day event centred on local economic development, community led housing and planning, accessing funds and grants and the well being of communities.
Andrew Gwynne MP, shadow secretary of state for Communities and Local Government, said: “I admire the innovative ways local councils are taking up the slack and filling the gaps left by cuts to principal authorities. I promised that a Labour Government would not introduce referendum principles (council tax capping) for local councils.”
He went to call for more urban local councils to be created where communities want them and that barriers from other parts of local government stopping this, should be removed.
Mike Cherry, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “Small firms and councils must work together – as we did to ensure £748 million was spent on small business Saturday - on housing, infrastructure and as we both look towards Brexit.”
Mr Cherry also gave a commitment for the Federation of Small Businesses to look at supporting NALC’s campaign for a share of business rates to come to local councils.
Stacey Egerton, senior policy officer, Information Commissioner’s Office announced that the organisation’s advice helpline on new data protection rules will be extended to local councils.
Cllr Kevin Wilson, chair of NALC’s Larger Local Councils Committee, said: “This conference comes at a critical time for local councils and the important communities we represent and exist for. Our sector is growing, our significance and role is greater than ever before. We are fast becoming the key agency of change and the provision of local services. We have become the place makers and shapers of our communities.
“Yet there remain some key obstacles and forces that struggle with the very idea that towns, villages and communities can shape their own destiny. We need to issue some key challenges, and this conference did just that. We need to challenge the Government. It talks localism. It now has to walk the talk.”