A KEY mandate for the Conservative led Government was to devolve powers of decision making about communities closer to the people involved.
That devolved power will be delivered in large measure by the Government in April, following the passing of the Localism Act 2011. The impact this new Act will have on councils and their communities cannot be overstated as its “local empowerment”principle clears away restrictions on freedom of action from much older legislation.
Just imagine if you asked a councillor for help, or you want to put forward what seems a sensible idea to him or her, and the response is, “yes, we probably can do that, if the funds are there” rather than, “well, I will have to check if we have the power to help you with that”. The first response could become more common under the “general power of competence” given to councillors and councils under the new Act, enabling a kind of “presumption of power”, removing the legal straightjacket of previous Local Government Acts.
This could of course allow your councillors to be more innovative in delivering better services to residents, with better value for money for council tax payers, but how democratic is your council? At the heart of this new Act is greater potential for true democracy — beyond an election! It could help us get away from what I would call, as a Conservative, “tub-thumping socialist leaders from a by-gone age” ruling a policy making council executive with little or no opposing voices.
Although Conservatives in council have been duty bound to operate this “ruling executive” governance model, the last Labour government abolished in 2000 what was, arguably, a more locally orientated form of governance: the committee system. This allowed sub-committees to full council more power to make decisions about local communities, with a much more democratically constituted membership.
The Localism Act allows the prospect of this more modern form of democracy to flourish once again, if, of course, local communities feel it better suits their circumstances.
So, a Conservative led government is delivering the power back to communities it promised. If elected, therefore, I hope to generate the debate that could lead to putting Bury in the forefront of modern local governance — if people want it!
Derek Brooks Prospective Conservative Candidate Radcliffe East Ward