Mark Whitehead 19 March 2018

Local councils prepare to lobby MPs for extra powers

Town and parish councils are calling for new powers to be handed to them following Brexit in what they see as the next stage in local government devolution.

The National Association of Local Councils says a 'community proofing' process should check which powers being returned from Brussels should be given to its members when the UK leaves the EU.

The demand is among several set out in in a report titled 'A Prospectus for Ultra-Localism' being presented to MPs tomorrow as part of NALC's annual Lobby Day.

It says the Localism Act should be revamped to allow its members more freedom to act independently and smaller councils should have a greater say over decisions that affect them.

The association argues that more parishes should be created in areas where they do not currently exist to raise the level of local decision-making.

It says the government's moratorium on extending the requirement for councils to conduct a referendum before they can increase charges to the community should be made permanent and wants towns and parishes to extend their sources of income to community shares, crowd funding, loans and charging for goods and services.

The move comes as small councils increasingly take responsibility for services mainly because bigger local authorities are no longer able to do so because of pressure on budgets.

A survey commissioned by NALC last year found nearly half had taken on responsibilities for maintaining the environment in the previous 12 months many had acquired extra duties including housing, planning, property management, transport, youth services and tourism.

The survey also found as many as one in five councils wanted to take on housing and planning, youth services, property management and other roles.

At the Lobby Day, NALC will also be pressing for action over the General Data Protection Regulations, due to take effect in May, which it fears will cost its members up to £3.5m if each one is forced to appoint a data protection officer.

Justin Griggs of NALC told LocalGov: 'Community councils need to be taken into account for new powers as part of the Brexit process - if we are going to put people back in control of their areas we need to do so at neighbourhood level.

'We want MPs and others to realise the potential of local communities and the prospectus for ultra-localism sets out a range of ways communities can help themselves to meet local needs.'

Read our feature on why smaller councils are taking on bigger roles in terms of responsibilities and delivering services.

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