Debate heats up Localism Bill's second reading
The second reading of the Localism Bill saw a heated exchange between the Government and Opposition, as former local government ministers clashed with incumbents over the veracity of the bill’s devolution of power.
Prior to the debate, shadow communities minister and Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband had tabled a motion attempting to block the bill, claiming it gave more power to Eric Pickles than anyone else.
Once the debate started, former local government minister Nick Raynsford asked communities secretary Eric Pickles if dictating on bin collections was localist, before Mrs Flint said the bill only empowers one person, Mr Pickles.
In a bizarre aside, Mr Pickles said Mr Raynford may replace John Wayne as his hero, based on his 'enormous vitality' and ideas for reform, which he claims were ignored by the Labour party during its years in power.
But Mrs Flint said the bill’s promise to disperse power was a ‘smokescreen for cuts that will hit the most deprived councils’. She also commented why it was necessary for 200 pages of legislation when only one page was necessary to devolve power.
This was a view echoed by Local Government Association chair, Baroness Margaret Eaton, in response to the second reading, and who stated there were '142 powers for central government to lay down regulations, issue guidance and otherwise direct how localism will work' in the bill'.
Dame Margaret said the powers threaten to 'undermine' the good work done by ministers on the localism issue, and that the LGA didn't believe central government had a role in setting council tax, or decided on Community Infrastructure Levies.
Mr Pickles stated at the reading that communities and the voluntary sector should not exist hand to mouth on grants and re-iterated the determination of the localism agenda.
Former Communities and Local Government secretary Hazel Blears attacked the decision to current plannning legislation, which she said would give the most power to the most loadest voices.
Earlier on Monday, Mr Pickles made an impassioned argument, stating the Localism Bill was ‘one of the most radical pieces of legislation to be debated in decades’ and that he ‘genuinely believes in local democracy, local communities and local solutions.’
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