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Devolve more powers to town and parish councils, argues Gywnne

Devolution needs to start from the bottom up, Andrew Gwynne has argued.

Speaking at the National Association of Local Councils conference yesterday, Labour’s shadow communities and local government secretary explained that it is his belief that town and parish councils really matter when it comes to making a difference in communities.

“I could achieve far more as a local councillor than I've ever been able to manage as a member of Parliament for 12-and-a-half years,” he said.

“People identify with communities that bureaucrats in Whitehall and Westminster don’t often recognise.”

The MP argued that in order to empower communities, they should be given the ability to take on the role of town or parish councils should they wish to do so – as these authorities are about more than identity and a sense of place, but that they can really shape a community.

“If you want to make a difference, it is at a very local level that really matters,” he said. “It is an important and growing role for town and parish councils.”

Gwynne also stated that devolution should not be confined to large authorities: “When we talk about localism, when we talk about devolution, we shouldn't just be talking about big city regions, we shouldn't just be talking about combined authorities.

“If we genuinely believe in devolution, it genuinely has to start from the bottom up, and from the very bottom up – and that means increasing the role for town and parish councils.”

The shadow secretary of state claimed that as a result of the 1972 Local Government Act, many councils, particularly in urban areas, “do not respect natural communities.”

He said that he is “increasingly of the view” that town and parish councils have “a very important role to play in local government going forward.”

“By taking more on with the power of general competence, I see the role of town and parish councils growing even further,” Gwynne concluded.

Top image: fotoVoyager

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