Headlines: August 28th, 2008

Councils and the communities they serve may get the power to make local laws under proposals that are now out to consultation. The changes could see authorities no longer having to seek Whitehall approval for new byelaws – and they could get the power to issue fixed penalty charges.
The Communities Secretary, Hazel Blears, said the objective was to give communities the power to tackle issues such as community safety, vandalism and public nuisance that really mattered to local neighbourhoods. The proposals would allow councils to set, sign and sanction local byelaws without always having to get Whitehall agreement but they must have the support of their residents.

The consulation is also seeking views on whether local communities should be able independently to revoke byelaws that are out of date. Views are also being sought on the option of councils and communities having the ability to issue what Ms Blears called ‘sensible fixed penalties’ for breaches of new byelaws as an alternative to taking prosecutions through the magistrates’ courts.

The Secretary of State said the proposals would lead to councils working even more closely with their communities so that byelaws would be tailored to local problems. She added, “Communities, who know their areas’ hotspots and problems, are best placed to identify and find solutions to the practical issues that matter to them. For the first time councils could now be able to set, sign and now sanction local laws without central government approval. This will make it easier to tackle problems, cut red tape, improve the wellbeing of their area and devolve more power to local people.”