NALC responds to Levelling Up white paper
Cllr Keith Stevens, chair of the National Association of Local Councils (NALC), has responded to the government's publication of the Levelling Up the United Kingdom white paper.
"Today's white paper is a welcome and positive first step down the long road ahead to levelling up, further devolution and empowering local communities.
The government has rightly recognised the local leadership role of England's 10,000 local (parish and town) councils. They are the first tier of local government in England, closest to the people, and play an essential part in improving and strengthening communities. But they have the potential to do so much more. That is why I strongly welcome the review of their role and functions and make it quicker and easier to set them up.
In England, local councils are already putting pride in place through the provision of parks and open spaces, markets, support for high streets and town centres, and so much more, and taking action on other local priorities.
This review provides an opportunity to strengthen our first tier of local government and ensure their 100,000 councillors have the necessary powers, support, and direct access to existing funding to provide high-quality local facilities and services and further improve people's sense of belonging and community.
Given the main areas for investment by the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, its design must give local councils direct access to this funding to tackle locally identified priorities.
I also welcome the government's commitment to publish the second report on rural proofing in England this spring. Levelling up must also include levelling out and ensuring rural communities are not ignored.
Measures to strengthen local leadership must also extend to all levels and not be confined to just county or regional level, which are still far removed from people's everyday lives and experiences. This should include greater recognition of the support needed for the 100,000 local councillors who provide local leadership every day in their communities.
Local councils must also not be overlooked by new structures such as the levelling up directors and advisory council or independent bodies set up to strengthen the transparency of local government.
I look forward to discussing the white paper in more detail with the government and working together to maximise the potential of local councils to levelling up our nation and communities."