Thomas Bridge 03 February 2015

Hand communities more power over services and pubs, say MPs

Communities should be given more power to shape local services, save pubs from closure and build housing, MPs have said.

Members of the Communities and Local Government Committee today urged ministers to undertake sweeping changes to Community Rights measures, which were introduced two years ago to help residents have a greater say over buildings and land.

 

MPs argued residents should be allowed to halt the sale of local pubs nine for months instead of the current six, giving them more time to develop a bid of their own and 'save a much-loved local'.

Councils were called on to explore how to 'more routinely' involve communities in the commissioning and delivery of local services outside of the potentially confrontational Right to Challenge, which MPs branded a 'nuclear option'.

Pressure was also raised to strengthen awareness of where residents can express an interest in local land, alongside removing complexity surrounding community efforts to build housing.

Committee chair, Clive Betts, said: 'The opportunity to take on and run a pub, a post office or a community centre is the opportunity to make a real contribution to local life. But the Government's Community Rights programme currently puts too many obstacles in the way for most local people to turn this opportunity into reality.

'The Government also needs to make people more aware of the Community Rights by focusing on what people want to achieve in their local area and promoting the Rights as one potential solution. As part of this, the Government should redirect some resources to community group umbrella organisations who could provide more face-to-face support and advice.

'We also need new forms of community engagement, particularly in areas of deprivation, so people can develop their skills in community organisation and ultimately use the existing Rights themselves.'

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