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Time to connect power to neighbourhoods

Time to connect power to neighbourhoods

England’s 10,000 local councils descended on the Houses of Parliament on 28th March in a ‘Lobby Day’ to meet with parliamentarians.

The third ever ‘Lobby Day’ by the NALC was aimed at raising the profile of the most local level of government and exclaim how local councils are doing more than ever before.

Yesterday we saw moves to wrestle away powers from Whitehall, Westminster, and town halls. This was done through community leaders meeting 60 local MPs to promote the benefits of local councils and how England’s 80,000 councillors are improving their communities by giving local people a voice, taking action on local priorities and delivering important local services. Mistakenly we have become completely fixated on taking ‘powers’ away from Brussels and transferring them to Westminster while we continue to ignore connecting influence and decision-making to neighbourhoods.

We have three key demands:

  • Strengthen Local Democracy. To make it easier for communities and local people to set up new local councils.

  • Fairer Funding. More financial freedoms for local councils and lifting the threat of imposing referenda on councils who wish to raise precept with the support of their communities.

  • More Powers. We want new powers to deliver new services that communities want including promoting local health and well-being.

Natascha Engel MP, The Second Deputy Speaker, welcomed this group of local councillors and officers to the Houses of Parliament and she congratulated local councils on being “a democratic forum for community action on the ground that really makes a difference.”

Lord Shipley, Liberal Democrat peer said: “I would like the entire city of Newcastle should be parished because I am a huge advocate of local councils. During the neighbourhood planning bill debate I set out my belief of the emerging importance of spreading parish and town councils into urban areas because it will help to get more houses built.”

Later in the day the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Local Democracy hosted a special event to showcase the best local council activity for communities – NALC’s Star Councils

Scott Mann MP, co-chair of the APPG, said: “As a Cornwall MP I’m very proud of our local councils and see first-hand just how important they are. They are a vital part of our local democracy; at the heart of the community; and most importantly, improving our local areas.

“Our All Party Parliamentary Group has an important job to champion local councils in parliament, promoting the changes needed to help them do more for local people, as well as showcasing good practice and celebrating how they are making a real difference.”

The chairman of NALC, Cllr Sue Baxter said: "I want to see the government, shadow front benches, MPs, principal authorities (counties, districts, borough and/or unitaries) up their game and improve their awareness of local councils in their respective communities and the vital work they do to improve their areas.

“In a time when more communities are feeling disconnected from power, 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.”

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