The Localism Bill

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The Localism Bill

The Localism Act takes power from central government and hands it back to local authorities and communities - giving them the freedom and flexibility to achieve their own ambitions. These are the key parts of the Bill:

Community rights

Every town, village or neighbourhood has buildings that play a vital role in local life. Using new community rights, local community and voluntary bodies, and parish councils, will be able to identify land and buildings that are important to them, such as a:

  • village shop
  • local pub
  • community centre
  • library

They can then nominate them for inclusion on a list of assets maintained by the local authority. If an asset on the list comes up for sale, communities will be able to trigger a pause for up to six months, in order to raise capital and bid to purchase the asset before it goes on the open market.

This will help local communities keep much-loved sites in public use and part of local life.

Neighbourhood planning

As it currently stands, the planning system doesn't give local communities enough influence over decisions that make a big difference to their lives. New rights in the Localism Act will mean local people can decide:

  • where new homes and businesses should go
  • what they should look like

Parish and town councils or, where they exist, neighbourhood forums will lead the creation of neighbourhood plans, supported by the local planning authority. Once written the plan will be independently examined and put to a referendum of local people for approval.

Neighbourhood plans will enable local people to ensure there are enough homes in their area by providing planning permission for homes in community ownership (particularly through the Community Right to Build). Town centre revitalisation, protection of green spaces, and regeneration through neighbourhood planning - local people will have genuine opportunities to influence the future of where they live.

 

More about the Bill

 

The Localism Bill will devolve greater powers to councils and neighbourhoods and give local communities more control over housing and planning decisions.

Key areas

The provisions relating to councils include:

  • giving councils a general power of competence (comes into effect after April 2012 for qualifying councils)
  • allowing councils to choose to return to the committee system of governance and allowing for referendums for elected mayors in certain authorities
  • abolishing the Standards Board regime and the model code of conduct, and introducing local accountability and a criminal offence of deliberate failure to declare a personal interest in a matter
  • giving residents the power to instigate local referendums on any local issue and the power to veto excessive council tax increases
  • allowing councils more discretion over business rate relief
  • providing new powers to help save local facilities and services threatened with closure, and giving voluntary and community groups the right to challenge local authorities over their services.

General power of competence

The Localism Act includes a 'general power of competence'. This gives local authorities the legal capacity to do anything an individual can do that isn't specifically prohibited; they will not, for example, be able to impose new taxes, as an individual has no power to tax.

Councils will be able to take action and get on with things they think will benefit their local area. The new power will give councils the freedom to:

  • work together to improve services
  • drive down costs
  • enhance their local area

Councils will be able to work creatively to meet local needs, without having to wait for agreement from the centre to get things done. It is understood that this power comes into effect in April 2012 to qualifying councils. In order to qualify, the Councillors should have stood for election (this can be uncontested), and the Parish Clerk must hold a recognised qualification. Bramley Parish Council is due to hold elections in May 2012, and the clerk has been working towards the CILCA qualification, so that we will shortly be able to qualify to use this power.

The housing provisions will

  • abolish the requirement to have a Home Information Pack
  • reform the Housing Revenue Account system
  • provide for a new form of flexible tenure for social housing tenants
  • allow local authorities to discharge their duties to homeless people by using private rented accommodation
  • give local authorities the power to limit who can apply for social housing within their areas
  • abolish the Tenant Services Authority and provides for a transfer of functions to the Homes and Communities Agency
  • amend the way in which a social tenant can make a complaint about their landlord
  • improve the ability of social tenants to move to different areas.

The planning and regeneration provisions will

  • abolish Regional Spatial Strategies
  • abolish the Infrastructure Planning Commission and return to a position where the Secretary of State takes the final decision on major infrastructure proposals of national importance
  • amend the Community Infrastructure Levy, which allows councils to charge developers to pay for infrastructure. Some of the revenue will be available for the local community
  • provide for neighbourhood plans, which would be approved if they received 50% of the votes cast in a referendum
  • provide for neighbourhood development orders to allow communities to approve development without requiring normal planning consent
  • give new housing and regeneration powers to the Greater London Authority, while abolishing the London Development Agency.


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Thursday, November 23, 2017