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WESTMINSTER WATCH

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Urgent action needed to fight civic crisis ...
Urgent action needed to fight civic crisis

A democracy commission to combat the crisis in public participation in government has been proposed by the House of Commons public administration select committee.

A report by the committee points to the 59% record low turnout in the last general election as evidence of widespread civic disengagement.

Its says other forms of public consultation, including the polling by the People's Panel, have failed to increase citizens' involvement in decision making.

A statement from the committee said: 'Not since the extension of the suffrage in 1918 has there been such a low level of participation in the electoral process. The reasons for it may be debated, but not its implications for our democracy.'

It added: 'We find it extraordinary this collapse in electoral participation, put alongside other evidence on civic disengagement, has not been treated as a civic crisis demanding an appropriate response. We believe a democracy commission should be established as a matter of urgency to consider how this crisis can be responded to constructively and with imagination. We believe our report makes a contribution to the process.'

www.parliament.uk/commons/selcin/pubahome

Indicators to be cut, says paper

A paper proposing streamlining best value performance indicators has been published by local government minister Nick Raynsford.

The paper sets out a limited number of national priorities and gives councils the power and freedom to deliver these, while maintaining effective performance management systems.

The number of performance indicators for principal councils would be cut by around a quarter compared to last year, and by half since the introduction of best value.

The totals are less than 100 for unitary and metropolitan councils and London boroughs, and under 50 for the smaller district councils.

Mr Raynsford said: 'Continuity is important to authorities, as it is to both central government and local people, because of the need to make year-on-year comparisons, and to ensure there is reliable and consistent data collection.

'But we need to ensure that in the future there is a greater consistency between national targets and the various indicators set by government. The streamlining we have started here will be taken forward through the forthcoming local government white paper and the 2002 spending review.'

Centre takes on planning power

Planning approval for major road building, rail or airport schemes will be given by Parliament under new rules removing the power from councils.

In an effort to speed up the planning process MPs, rather than council officers, will be asked to study major schemes.

Lord Falconer, minister for housing, planning and regeneration, announced the plans at the Confederation of

British Industry conference.

He said the present system was 'obscure, slow, inconsistent and 50 years out of date'.

Time and money was being wasted by the system in which larger developments took years to process.

Although councils would still deal with the smaller developments, they will have to speed up proceedings.

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