Headlines: January 12th, 2015

Proposals for streamlining the process for setting up local councils should be more radical to give greater power to communities claims the National Association of Local Councils. In order to get their voices heard and run local services there needs to be greater neighbourhood democracy.

The proposals include lowering the threshold of signatures required to make a valid petition to set up a council, reducing the amount of time the Local Principal Authority can take to complete a Community Governance Review and allowing Neighbourhood Forums to trigger a Community Governance Review.

Although the proposals will make it easier to set up local councils they do not go far enough. As part of the national devolution debate around the English question all political parties should commit to a national timetable for community governance reviews with a presumption in favour of the whole of England being parished by the end of the next parliament.

NALC continues to voice strong concern over the lack of appeal mechanism when a principal county, borough, district or unitary authority turns down a request by local people for a local council.

Cllr Ken Browse, chairman of NALC, said: “Local councils are popular with people and can really make a difference, and for too long communities have battled with burdensome bureaucracy to get them created. The proposals to remove red tape, simplify and streamline the current process is common sense.

“We welcome the continued impetus on the creation of more new local councils to deliver services to local communities and give them a voice.

“The Government’s measures is a step in the right direction to help people and communities create democratic councils and get on with delivering grassroots level services taking local action. Of fundamental importance is a strong presumption in favour of creation and avoiding community groups being pitted against their principal council in a David versus Goliath battle.”

The NALC is also calling for all communities to look at creating new local parish, neighbourhood, community or town councils in their area. If communities take up these opportunities it will enable them to have citizen-led action, which protects local assets and services and delivers responsive services based on local priorities. All of which improves lives and enhances communities.