House of Commons Debates, Written Answers & Written Statements
Week Ending 17 December 2010
Caroline Flint: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what rights he plans to give to (a) residents, (b) parish councils and (c) community groups to challenge the outcome of a referendum on a neighbourhood plan. 
Greg Clark: Parish councils will have the power to bring forward proposals for neighbourhood planning. Residents and community groups will have the opportunity to be engaged during the development of proposals and to make representations to an independent examination of proposals before they are put to a referendum.
Actions of any public authority are also subject to challenge through existing legal processes.
The Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Greg Clark): I am today announcing ways the Government will further redistribute power from Westminster and Whitehall to people, neighbourhoods, communities and local institutions.
Sustainable Communities Act 2007
Secretary of State has today issued decisions on whether to implement proposals
submitted by local authorities under the Sustainable Communities Act.
The Government are grateful to the Local Government Association for undertaking the role of "selector", and shortlisting 199 proposals in December 2009. The Secretary of State has examined all the requests for assistance contained within the proposals in the light of the spending review and the coalition agreement and, in accordance with the Act, discussed them with the selector.
I am pleased that the Government will take action to implement, or implement in part, 37% of requests. We will also work with councils on 25% of requests to explore the issues more closely, or explain how existing powers can achieve the desired outcome.
The Secretary of State has today invited all local authorities to once again submit proposals under the Sustainable Communities Act. The invitation will be placed on the Department's website. The Government intend to revise the role of the selector in the light of this invitation, and will update the House in the new year.
I have placed copies of the Secretary of State's decisions under the Sustainable Communities Act and his invitation to submit further proposals in the Library of the House.
Barrier busters to remove barriers to local action
I have today launched an online portal to make it easier for councils, community groups, local institutions and individuals to highlight bureaucratic barriers stopping them from taking action they believe would improve their area.
The online portal, available at: http://barrierbusting. communities.gov.uk will also make it easier for councils to submit proposals under the Sustainable Communities Act. Councils will be able to submit directly to the Secretary of State rather than an external selector, and at a time of their choosing-not a centrally imposed deadline.
I have established a specialised team within the Department for Communities and Local Government who will work with those who submit requests for assistance through the portal, and will try to remove the barrier identified.
This online portal will ensure that our commitment to decentralising power is made as transparent as possible. Members of the public will be able to see how we are dealing with requests, and hold us to account accordingly.
The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr Eric Pickles): I am today introducing the Localism Bill to Parliament. The legislation will set the foundations for the big society by radically transforming the relationships between central government, local government, communities and individuals. The provisions will devolve greater power and freedoms to councils and neighbourhoods, establish powerful new rights for communities, revolutionise the planning system, and give communities much more control over housing decisions.
The Bill will expand councils' freedom to act in the interest of their local communities through a new general power of competence. This long-awaited new power will mean that rather than needing to rely on specific powers, councils will have the legal reassurance and confidence to innovate and drive down costs to deliver more efficient services.
Powers for councils will be accompanied by greater powers for local people to hold their local authorities to account and to shape their local area. There will be a new right to challenge to take over services; a new right to bid to buy assets of community value such as libraries, public houses and shops; and a new right to veto excessive council tax rises through a referendum.
The Bill also contains significant reform of the planning system. It will replace the Infrastructure Planning Commission with an efficient and democratically accountable system for major infrastructure. It will enable regional planning to be swept away and, in its place, neighbourhood plans will become the new building blocks of the planning system with communities having the power to grant planning permission if a majority of electors are in favour.
The Bill will return decision-making powers on housing to local councils, giving them much greater control over allocation and tenure of social housing and the flexibility to use their social housing stock to the maximum effect and reduce waiting lists. It will enable a new national home swap scheme that will make it easier for social tenants to relocate. The housing revenue account subsidy system will be replaced with a more transparent system that serves local communities. The Tenant Services Authority will be abolished but its vital economic regulation functions will be preserved.
The Bill will create powerful incentives for economic growth by allowing local authorities to grant discretionary business rate discounts. Its provisions will also make small business tax breaks easier to take advantage of and give affected businesses a greater say in rate supplements.
Finally, the Bill will take forward a new settlement for London which will devolve significant power to the Greater London authority and London boroughs and streamline the plethora of agencies in London's public sector landscape.
Taken together, the measures in the Bill will give local government the freedom and powers to deliver the key front-line services people rely on and make important savings.