Ministers look set to include plans to hand a much-anticipated legal power to give councils a free hand to pursue the best interests of their local areas. This will appear in the early legislative programme of the new parliament, according to a Cabinet Office briefing setting out policy areas that had been agreed by the coalition government:
The briefing note says the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government has come together with a "driving ambition to put more power and opportunity into people's hands" and as part of its programme will give councils a "general power of competence" – a long-awaited legal power that enables councils to act as they see fit in the best interests of their communities.
The coalition parties have also agreed on measures to "radically reform the planning system", which will include scrapping regional spatial strategies and returning decision making powers on housing and planning to councils.
The note also says the government will give communities the right to bid to take over local state-run services as well as new powers to help communities "save local facilities and services threatened with closure". It also reiterates the pledge made in the initial coalition deal to launch a full review of local government finance. There was, however, no mention of abolishing regional development agencies or of referenda for directly elected mayors .
What does this mean for the people of Kent? Or the people of Margate? Localism and more say in what your council does, can only be a good thing.
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