Headlines: July 25th, 2005

A new report focuses on the role of urban parish and town councils in regenerating communities. It has been written by the Local Government Information Unit and looks at the scope of the parish council model for advancing the Government’s neighbourhoods agenda.”Parish and town councils and neighbourhood governance” has been published following a seminar earlier this year. It makes a number of recommendations for both the government and local authorities. The LGIU says the document is intended to inform the development of the Government’s neighbourhood policy, following the recent “Citizen Engagement and Public Services: Why Neighbourhoods Matter” paper produced by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

The new report’s main conclusions include a call for neighbourhoods to be given powers to promote the general well being of their area and not just the management of a few street and environmental services. It says, too, that they should have a formal means of influencing decisions that affect them and that are taken at a more strategic level and involving other agencies.

The LGIU report, published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, warns that devolving budgets to small neighbourhood bodies may not always be the best means of devolving real power to communities or of promoting the Government’s efficiency agenda. It also says that the particular model of urban parishes could jeopardise another Government objective of regenerating the poorest neighbourhoods and reducing inequality.

The report has been written by Ines Newman, the LGIU’s Head of Policy, who said he hoped it would help inform the development of the Government’s vision for vibrant neighbourhoods and local government in a way that would reconcile emerging localism with the aim of reducing deprivation in the poorest neighbourhoods.