NALC's local vision conference 1-2 June
The National Association of Local Councils is leading the way in ensuring that power is given back to local people.
NALC is arguing that in a world of increasing globalisation, people feel and need greater links to their local communities. This can only be achieved by giving greater powers to local communities via neighbourhood bodies such as local councils.
Local government minister Phil Woolas confirmed that the government is committed to double devolution. This involves powers being devolved from central government to principal local government and then further devolved down to local communities.
He said: 'The core building blocks of the double devolution agenda are parish and town councils. We want there to be flexibility about neighbourhood governance but want it to be based on the models of parish and town councils.'
Click here for the speech of Mr Woolas.
NALC chief executive John Findlay commented on how the debate around the future of local government is now centering around empowering local communities via parish and town councils and that the upcoming local government white paper will confirm this.
He said: 'The local government white paper will see the pushing of powers and functions to the parish level. With this there will be the flexibility of allowing local communities to decide whether they want to take on extra powers and functions.'
Young Foundation director Geoff Mulgan said: 'We need to build genuine engagement with the public, and with this bring power down to the local level and extend the model of parish and town councils to the two-thirds of the country who currently do not have them in place.' He went on further to say that there should be just one local neighbourhood structure based on parish and town councils to deliver services.
Lyons inquiry chair Michael Lyons voiced his thoughts on the matter by saying: 'Parish and town councils are an important part of the mosaic of local government and in many ways are the purest form of local government. These councils have a critical role in improving the 'well-being' of the communities as well as forming close working relationships with other tiers of local government.'
Essex CC leader Lord Hanningfield discussed how in Essex, the county council are engaging more and more with local communities via the parish and town councils in the area. He said they are doing this by building capacity within parish and town councils through various investment and funding programmes.
NALC chairman Ken Cleary added: 'This will be a crucial year for local government and should hopefully result in the mechanisms being put in place to bring about real change in local community governance.'
1.The National Association of Local Councils is the national representative body for 10,000 community, parish and town councils throughout England and Wales. In all, there are over 100,000 community, parish and town councillors throughout England and Wales. These councillors, who serve electorates ranging from small rural communities to major cities, are all independently elected. The councils have powers to raise their own funds through council tax. Community, parish and town councils provide employment for over 25,000 staff while their annual expenditure exceeds£400m. Together, they can be identified as the nation's single most influential grouping of grassroots opinion-formers. Over 15 million people live in communities served by 10,000 community, parish and town councils nationally - this represents up to 30% of the population. Over 150 new community, parish and town councils have been created since 1997.
2.Speeches and presentations will be available shortly on the NALC website, www.nalc.gov.uk