Key proposals including the cutting of targets and giving councils powers to compel executive agencies will mean that local councils are at the centre of their communities ensuring a revitalisation of local democracy.
LGIU chief executive Dennis Reed said:
'What is so positive about these proposals from the LGA is that they are backed up by cross-party consensus. All parties agree that the localist agenda must be addressed. We want to see revitalised local government and new neighbourhood arrangements with the councillor at the centre. The LGA's proposals on participatory budgeting are particularly welcome.
'We know that the minister is deciding whether the white paper is able to be released in its current state and we know that there is a real potential that this white paper could enable devolution of power to town halls. However, none of this will count for anything if the government does not also tackle the 'balance of funding' between central and local government.'
Living Streets asks, 'But does it mean local people can demand to have their pavements fixed?'
Living Streets welcomes the thrust of 'Closer to people and places', particularly its focus on place-making, and devolution of power beyond the town hall to communities and neighbourhoods.
The real power of the report lies in the proposals to free local authorities from 'two decades of micro-management' by central government and give them powers to build strong local economies and inspiring places. The proposals on neighbourhood engagement and governance still need some working out, however.
Living Streets has a few simple tests. Will the reforms give local people the right to get things done like mend the pavements and put in zebra crossings? At the moment, a council can put off mending the pavements indefinitely by saying there's no money. They can say no to pedestrian crossings if not enough people have been killed or injured. Residents can campaign till they are blue in the face for 20mph speed restrictions, but there is no obligation on the council to take action.
The country is littered with examples of local people working for several years - sometimes even decades - on plans to improve their towns and villages, only to have them thrown out because the council's policies have changed or government guidance has been re-written. Living Streets heartily agrees with Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, the LGA's chairman, when he says that local people aren't apathetic about local politics - they are frustrated.