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28.04.15

Councils call for more local devolution from next government

Councils across the UK have come together to demand “urgent action” on devolution by whoever forms the next government.

In a joint statement issued ahead of the general election, the local government associations of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have called on politicians to grasp "the opportunity to revive our local democratic systems".

The organisations want to see the next government set out how powers will be devolved to local communities in its first Queen’s Speech.

The statement is signed by Cllr David Sparks, chair of the Local Government Association, Cllr Aaron Shotton, deputy leader of the Welsh Local Government Association, Cllr David O'Neill, president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and Cllr Dermot Curran, president of the Northern Ireland Local Government Association.

They say in their statement: “As leaders of the United Kingdom’s four local government associations, we represent the elected voice of local communities across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. After the referendum on independence for Scotland, it was clear that public trust in the old ways of central control had been shattered beyond repair.

“We made representations to William Hague’s Cabinet Committee in London and the Smith Commission in Edinburgh. We highlighted the opportunity to revive our local democratic systems and to move power to the local communities across our nation.”

They argue that too many decisions that affect local communities are centralised, not just in Westminster but also in Holyrood, Stormont and Cardiff Bay. They believe that it is time to “refresh our model of devolution” to a more local approach.

The statement continues: “As we approach the election of a new Parliament, the time for talking has ended. The UK Local Authority Associations are very clear that it is time to move away from an expensive, centralised approach which means that governments in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh or London try to second guess what is best for localities.”

The leaders call on whoever forms the next government to ensure that:

  • Legislation in the first Queen Speech (including the Scotland Bill, the Wales Bill and an English Devolution Bill) is framed to empower local communities through councils, embeds the principle of subsidiarity and guarantees the devolution of powers beyond Westminster, Holyrood, Cardiff Bay and Stormont.
  • The European Charter of Local Self-Government, which sets out the principles of local democracy and was signed by the UK in 1997, forms part of a new constitutional settlement.
  • Any future Constitutional Convention on the future of the governance of the UK should guarantee seats around the table for the leaders of the four associations to ensure that the voices of local communities are heard.

The four leaders added: "As we approach the election of a new parliament, the time for talking has ended. The new government will be given the responsibility of defining a new settlement for the communities of the United Kingdom. We have the opportunity to shape history and strengthen our nation.

"We are very clear that it is time to move away from an expensive, centralised approach which means that governments in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh or London try to second guess what is best for localities. Any settlement which does not extend beyond Westminster, Holyrood, Cardiff Bay and Stormont will not be sustainable."

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