Headlines: May 15th, 2008

Local authority leaders say they will work with Government ministers to develop ways of giving local people more influence over decision making. But, in a response to the proposals in the draft legislative programme, the Local Government Association said they would resist any new bureaucratic rules.

The programme includes a Community Empowerment, Housing and Economic Regeneration Bill, a Business Rates Supplements Bill and a housing reform green paper, which is to be published later this year. The Department for Communities and Local Government said the Empowerment Bill would see plans to give people a bigger say in shaping local services and their neighbourhoods.

Sir Simon Milton, chairman of the LGA, said it was right to improve people’s influence over decisions and councils would be keen to work with ministers to develop proposals. “Councils are already in the business of making sure that local people take part in the democratic process, that they are properly consulted and feel fully involved in what is happening locally. Councils work closely with local people to ensure that they are responsive to their wishes and needs and are able to provide them with the services that they expect and deserve,” Sir Simon said.

He warned, though, that in discussions on the new legislation councils would seek to ensure that it did not impose new bureaucratic rules that town halls would have to follow.

On plans for police accountability, which were also set out in the draft programme, Sir Simon said ministers were right that it needed to be strengthened and there must be a chance for local people to influence what the police did and where they spent money. The best way to do this, he said, was through councils and councillors.