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Blears publishes local democracy Bill

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The Department for Communities & Local Government has published the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill.

The Bill takes forward some of the government’s commitments from this year’s community empowerment white paper - Communities in Control: Real People, Real Power - as well as proposals from the Review of Sub-National Economic Development and Regeneration.

However, many of the proposals from the white paper - including plans to remove the barriers to introducing directly elected mayors - have been put into a draft Community Empowerment Bill, which will be unlikely to be implemented this session.

Priorities

Key proposals in the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill taken from Communities in Control are:

-- A new duty to promote democracy
-- A new duty on local councils to respond to petitions
-- An extension of the duty to involve to partner authorities
-- Proposals to boost capacity and raise awareness of overview and scrutiny through the creation of a scrutiny officer and broadening the scope of what joint overview and scrutiny committees can consider

On the back burner

However, certain proposals from Communities in Control have been included in the draft Community Empowerment Bill instead. These will:

-- Amend politically restricted posts
-- Enable remote voting for councillors
-- Introduce voting incentives
-- Modernise provisions around parish councils
-- Remove the barriers to directly electing mayors
-- Recognise the contributions of alderwomen and local people through reform of honorary and hereditary freedoms.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Communities & Local Government said the proposals in the draft Community Empowerment Bill would be put into legislation "at the earliest opportunity".

Sub-national review

The Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill will also take forward the government’s plans from the Review of Sub-National Economic Development and Regeneration to revitalise local economies. These include:

-- The duty on local authorities to undertake an economic assessment of their area
-- Regional strategies for each English region (except London) to be drawn up between regional leaders boards and regional development agencies
-- New powers to create statutory 'Economic Prosperity Boards'
-- Plans to allow the creation of multi area agreements (MAAs) with statutory duties

Hazel Blears

Communities Secretary Hazel Blears hailed the bill as a key weapon in the battle against the recession.

"The current economic downturn is having a huge impact on our communities,” she said. "This Bill sets out the framework for every level of government to address the economic issues facing their areas in a coordinated and effective way, and plan for sustainable economic growth in every region of the country."

The Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill will receive its second reading on 17 December.

The announcement comes a day after Local Government Minister John Healey published The Business Rate Supplements Bill.

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