NALC wants fairer rules
National Association of Local Councils' (NALC) Larger Councils' Committee (LCC), has called this week for several changes to government legislation to give local (parish and town) councils a fairer deal.
The first of these changes is a call to remove the viability clause on affordable housing, from Section 106 of the 1990 Town and Country Planning Act.
Residents of parished areas across England have suffered as a result of the introduction of the viability clause as many of them were expecting community benefit from developers' contributions agreed to by developers in earlier Section 106 Agreements.
This clause now enables developers to turn their backs on those original agreements leaving many parished areas with eyesore developments and no incidental benefit for their communities.
The current viability clause inserts new clauses into Section 106 that introduces a new application and appeal procedure for the review of planning obligations on planning permissions which relate to the provision of affordable housing.
The changes require a principal (county, district, borough or unitary) authority to assess the viability arguments, to renegotiate previously agreed affordable housing levels in a Section 106, and change the affordable housing requirement or face an appeal.
The viability clause has affected many parished areas including Abingdon in Oxfordshire and Hereford in Herefordshire – as developers committing to cede monies and developer contributions agreed to in earlier Section 106 agreements made by their local planning authorities have been wriggled out of by developers – so NALC's LCC is calling for this to be scrapped by the government.
Cllr Angela Lawrence, Abingdon Town Council said: "For far too long communities have lost out from developers wriggling out of their agreed Section 106 commitments. It is difficult enough for communities to gain any benefit from developers' contributions. The viability clause makes the delivery of affordable homes that actually meet local need almost impossible, so the Government should remove this unnecessary obstacle as soon as possible."
The second issue that NALC's LCC is raising relates to the possibility that some parish councils may still be capped in 2015-16 if it is confirmed by the Government that they are caught by principles for referenda on excessive Council Tax Increases.
NALC's LCC is calling on government to remove local councils from referendum principles and to make it compulsory for Billing Authorities to transfer Localisation of Council Tax Scheme parish grant to parishes in 2015/16.
At a time when parish councils have already had their council tax bases reduced by 11% over the last three financial years, the government should not include parish councils in referendum principles for 2015/16.
The government should make it mandatory by all Billing Authorities to pass onto parish councils in their areas all local council tax support parish grant in 2015/16.
Residents in many parished areas will suffer if their services have to be cut as a result of parishes being unable to afford to sustain services in 2015-16 due the government's financial decisions.
Cllr Ken Cleary, chair of NALC's LCC said: "At a time when all parish councils nationally including the larger ones are being asked by the government to take on and deliver more services even with the legal power to do so, it seems strange that the same government also seems to want to make it as hard as possible financially for local councils to deliver these services."
The third issue raised is around the creation of new councils in urban areas. The Committee calls for a renewed push and support from the government.
There have been more campaigns to create new parish councils in urban areas since 2013 and the Committee wants the government to commit to funding the creation of new local councils in urban areas to continue this momentum in years to come.
The government needs to encourage principal authorities to have a presumption in favour of creating new urban local councils.
Cllr Ken Browse, chair of NALC said: "The government has put its money where its mouth is since 2013 on funding the creation of more new local councils in urban areas. But we want to see the government continue to do this from now on as well so that this crucial momentum isn't lost."