Last week we held our annual conference for larger local (parish and town) councils. The sold out event included a panel discussion on localism and the new powers contained in the Localism Act, in particular the general power of competence. During this session our chief executive spoke about our take on the new powers for local communities, which we followed up with a letter to leading local government journal LGC to share our thinking more widely. An edited version of the letter was published yesterday as the letter of the week, the original text is below:
Local councils will be key to implementing new powers
The National Association of Local Councils (NALC) is the representative body for 9,000 local (community, neighbourhood, parish, town and village) councils.
We believe there has never been a more important time for local democracy. Local people have long felt a lack of ownership over decisions that affect their lives and where they live.
So there is real support for localism and our very local councils have a vital role in community action, representation and service delivery.
We believe that these very local councils can be an effective democratic community leader, encouraging communities and people to take advantage of the new planning, housing, community asset protection and development powers coming their way through the localism agenda.
Local communities will be better able to influence and control what is happening through public service delivery in their area. For example local councils can be at the heart of work with communities to develop neighbourhood plans. The new powers will make it easier for local councils to innovate, make use of assets and work with private sector.
These new powers will add to the extensive range of powers available and we expect this to make the creation of new local councils more attractive – we are already seeing steady growth in the number established, particularly in urban areas and with Queen’s Park, Westminster in line to be the first in London.
Alert principal authorities should be supporting these innovations including the creation of new councils, looking at how they can work better with our local councils and discuss how power and responsibilities can be devolved.
We want to reinvigorate local councils as the closest tier of government to people. The localism agenda is making the role of local councils exciting and vibrant and provides an exceptional opportunity to bring real power and responsibility back to local communities.