How Localism Bill Changes the Rules

Article excerpt

Business Editor MIKE HUGHES looks at the implications of the Localism Bill.

THE Localism Bill that Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has just unveiled was always going to be complex.

It offers so much power locally that it will take some time for the full effects to become clear.

The briefing notes on www.parliament.uk are detailed, but worth wading through: More powers to councils and neighbourhoods and gives local communities greater control over local decisions like housing and planning. Numerous provisions in relation to local government.

These include a general power of competence for local authorities, governance arrangements for LAs including new provisions for directly elected mayors, the abolition of the standards board regime and requirements for LAs to set senior pay policy statements.

Community empowerment with powers to enable people to instigate local referendums on any issue, to approve or veto in a referendum a council tax increase deemed to be excessive, to express an interest in running local authority services and to provide local community groups with an opportunity to bid to buy assets of community value.

Reform of the planning system with provisions to abolish regional strategies, provide for neighbourhood plans, make pre-application consultation compulsory, make changes to planning enforcement and in relation to nationally significant infrastructure.

Reform social housing, including measures to offer flexible tenancies for new social tenants, create a new system of council housing finance, provide assistance for tenants to exchange their social rented property, transfer the functions of the Tenants Services Authority to the Homes and Communities Agency and make changes to the system for tenants to make a complaint about their social landlord.

Locally, it is the planning reforms that are starting the most debates, so the Gazette business desk asked a couple of leading experts from the region for their verdicts.

Sean Hedley, a planning specialist at chartered surveyors Sanderson Weatherall in Stockton, said: "The conventional planning process has been turned on its head. The strategy aims to create a climate that empowers local people and communities, with the aim of 'taking power away from politicians and giving it to people''. …