Headlines: April 26th, 2007

VOLUNTARY SECTOR BACKS COMMUNITIES BILL

 

Voluntary organisations are backing the Sustainable Communities Bill, which aims to reform local government by empowering local people to make their own decisions and to drive policies on sustainable communities. The private member’s bill would place a duty on central government to produce a ‘community action plan’ to promote sustainable communities.

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations has declared its support for Clause 3 of the bill, which would ensure local councils have to seek the views of their local communities before feeding into these action plans. The NCVO said this was an important mechanism to make the rhetoric of ‘double devolution’ a reality.

As part of its support for the proposals the NCVO is co-operating with Local Works, the coalition campaigning for the bill, to strengthen that clause. In particular it has put forward an amendment that would ensure non-statutory partners, such as charities, voluntary organisations and community groups, were specifically involved in the process. That amendment is in line with the approach the Council took over the Local Government Bill on which it is continuing to lobby and to press for a statutory duty on local authorities to engage with non-statutory partners.

Liz Atkins, Director of Public Policy at the NCVO, said its lobbying on both the Local Government White Paper and Local Government Bill had secured important recognition from the Government of the role that voluntary and community organisations played in communities. She added, “The Sustainable Communities Bill provides another important opportunity to create strong and prosperous local communities, devolve power and take a step towards ‘bottom up’ policy making.”

The bill has been introduced by Conservative MP Nick Hurd and has the support of more than 400 MPs from all three main parties. It is currently in its Committee Stage and will be considered again today.