Parliamentary group backs Onward's report calling for more parish power

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The All-Party Parliamentary Group on local democracy today backed The Policies of Belonging report by influential think tank Onward which calls for more parish power.

The meeting of the cross-party group of Members of Parliament and the House of Lords was hosted by its co-chairs Cherilyn Mackrory MP (Falmouth and Truro) and Richard Holden MP (North West Durham) as part of the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) Lobby Day.

Will Tanner, director of Onward, addressed the meeting and provided an overview of the report's main case – that communities should be empowered to shape their places, and given space, capital, and tools to do so. This is in the context of a huge decline in the nation's social fabric over the last century or so. 

There was then a wider debate about the report's findings and recommendations, in particular, the reports call for all un-parished areas of England to have a local council through a right to self-govern, and that existing local councils should receive a 5-10% share of the proposed Infrastructure Levy. The report also argues that local councils should be given more powers to manage assets and deliver local services in their areas.

Mr Tanner, said: "Our research indicated that 71% of voters believed that there had been a serious community decline during their lifetimes. The report concluded that our country's social fabric had been seriously fragmented over time. There is a real need for a sense of community belonging now. It isn't enough to empower communities or to simply finance them, the government must both empower and capitalise communities.”

Cllr Sue Baxter, NALC chairman, said: "NALC has welcomed Onward’s The Policies of Belonging report and in particular its two main recommendations regarding local councils aimed at building upon the movement of ‘parish power’ to make a change in communities. Local councils have proven their worth in an agile and responsive way during this pandemic. We should capitalize on this recent wave of voluntarism by creating more pop-up local councils, establishing local councils across the rest of England, and encouraging more local councils to use neighbourhood planning.”

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