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Localism Act – 5-A-DAY HELPS YOU WORK, REST AND PLAY

March 23, 2012

THEY may be strange bedfellows – oranges, lemons, onions and carrots against a new piece of government legislation.

But the 5-a-day theory is just as relevant to the key measures in the Localism Act as it is to fruit and vegetables.

The new bill’s powers will act in the same way as the beneficial components of the wonders that come out of Mother Earth.

The big five of the Localism Act take power from central government and hand it back to local authorities and communities – giving them the freedom and flexibility to achieve their own ambitions.

Different parts of the Act will come into effect at different times.

Community rights

New community rights will ensure that organisations have a fair chance to bid to take over land and buildings that are important to them.

Every town, village or neighbourhood has buildings that play a vital role in local life. Using new community rights, local community and voluntary bodies, and parish councils, will be able to identify land and buildings that are important to them, such as a:

                l village shop

                l local pub

                l community centre

                l library

They can then nominate them for inclusion on a list of assets maintained by the local authority. If an asset on the list comes up for sale, communities will be able to trigger a pause for up to six months, in order to raise capital and bid to purchase the asset before it goes on the open market.

This will help local communities keep much-loved sites in public use and part of local life.

Neighbourhood planning

New rights will allow local communities to shape new development by coming together to prepare neighbourhood plans.

As it currently stands, the planning system doesn’t give local communities enough influence over decisions that make a big difference to their lives. New rights in the Localism Act will mean local people can decide:

                l where new homes and businesses should go

                l what they should look like

Parish and town councils or, where they exist, neighbourhood forums will lead the creation of neighbourhood plans, supported by the local planning authority. Once written the plan will be independently examined and put to a referendum of local people for approval.

Neighbourhood plans will enable local people to ensure there are enough homes in their area by providing planning permission for homes in community ownership (particularly through the Community Right to Build). Town centre revitalisation, protection of green spaces, and regeneration through neighbourhood planning – local people will have genuine opportunities to influence the future of where they live.

Housing

The Localism Act will mean that more decisions about housing are taken locally, and the system is fairer and more effective.

Councils will get the flexibility to better manage their housing stock by adapting to meet local needs. Giving councils more discretion will create better long term outcomes for social tenants and the wider community.

The Localism Act will let councils decide:

                l how best to help homeless people

                l how to manage their housing waiting lists

                l the length of tenancy that best fits a household’s needs

The Act will change the way social housing is funded to pass more power to a local level. Councils also will get back the control of the revenue raised by council rent. This more predictable and stable basis will enable them to plan long term investment and decide how best to spend the money in their area.

Empowering cities and other local areas

The Localism Act enables ministers to transfer public functions to local authorities in order to improve local accountability or promote economic growth.

Our major cities need new powers to thrive. The Localism Act empowers major cities and other local authorities like Lichfield District Council to:

                l develop their areas

                l improve local services

                l increase their competitiveness

These new powers were included in the Act at the request of the Core Cities group, representing the largest cities inEnglandoutsideLondon(Birmingham,Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool,Manchester,Newcastle, Nottingham,Sheffield).

Power are due to start next month, with different places accessing the powers over different timescales. Over the coming months, local partners will come up with innovative proposals for doing things differently. The Government has committed to listening to these proposals and, where appropriate, allowing use of the new powers to turn ideas into practical reality.

General power of competence

The general power of competence will give councils the green light to work in innovative ways.

Sometimes councils are wary of doing something new because they’re not sure the law allows them to – even if they think it might be a good idea.

The Localism Act includes a ‘general power of competence’. This gives local authorities the legal capacity to do anything an individual can do that isn’t specifically prohibited; they will not, for example, be able to impose new taxes, as an individual has no power to tax.

Councils will be able to take action and get on with things they think will benefit their local area. The new power will give councils the freedom to:

                l work together to improve services

                l drive down costs

                l enhance their local area

Councils will be able to work creatively to meet local needs, without having to wait for agreement from the centre to get things done.

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