Plans to hand power back to local people and set local councils free from central government meddling have been announced by the new coalition Government.
Conservative Councillors in Bath and North East Somerset, who have been campaigning for many years to have more powers devolved to local people and local councils, have welcomed the plans as a “revolution for local government”.
In its policy paper entitled ‘Building the Big Society’, the new Conservative-led coalition Government details plans to give people greater influence over their local services and transfer power from central to local government.
The Government’s plans include giving local councils greater financial autonomy with fewer ring-fenced budgets, scrapping central targets such as the widely-reviled Regional Spatial Strategies, and reforming the planning system to give local communities a greater say over how their neighbourhoods are shaped. The plans also include giving communities the power to take over local services and facilities at risk of closure.
B&NES Conservative Leader Cllr Francine Haeberling has welcomed the announcement, saying:
“These plans are very exciting for local councils and could represent a complete revolution for local government. Handing back powers to local councils will allow us to have a greater focus on delivering local priorities. Under the previous Labour Government the amount of hoop-jumping and form-filling increased massively over the years, with more central government grants ring-fenced for specific pet projects.
“Giving local councils more freedom over their own budgets and own priorities is something local Conservatives have called for over many years. With public spending facing a major squeeze, cutting the central-government bureaucracy that local councils face could save us significant sums.”