Introducing measures to empower local people and to revoke plans to create new unitary councils.

A Bill that would shift power from the state to local communities and empower local people forms part of the Queen’s Speech alongside a DCLG Bill to revoke the previous government’s plans to create unitary councils in Exeter, Norwich and Suffolk.

Foundations for the Big Society

‘The Devolution and Localism Bill’ would set the foundations for the Big Society by shifting power from the central state back into the hands of individuals, communities and councils.

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles said:

This important Bill would shift power from the central state back into the hands of individuals, communities and councils. It will empower local people giving them more power over local government. It will free local government from central and regional control so that they can ensure services are delivered according to local needs.

Some of the Coalition Agreement commitments would be legislated through the Localism Bill including:

  • returning decision-making powers on housing and planning to local councils by abolishing Regional Spatial Strategies
  • new powers for communities to help save local facilities and services threatened with closure, and the right to bid to take over local state-run services
  • giving councils a general power of competence
  • giving residents the power to instigate local referendums on any local issue and the power to veto excessive council tax increases
  • greater financial autonomy to local government and community groups
  • outright abolition of Home Improvement Packs
  • create local enterprise partnerships - joint local authority-business bodies to promote local economic development

Greg Clark, Minister for Decentralisation, added:

This Bill would reverse years of creeping state control and return power to people, communities and councils.

We have an optimistic vision that supports people to work in the interests of their communities, rather than telling them what to do. When you decentralise power you unlock creativity and dynamism that gets better results, better services and better value for money.

The state alone is often too monolithic and clumsy to tackle our deepest social problems and we believe that the best ideas come from the ground up, not the top down.

Council Restructuring

The speech also included a ‘Local Government Bill’ to revoke the previous government’s plans to create unitary councils in Exeter, Norwich and Suffolk.

The Secretary of State added:

This urgent Bill would stop the unnecessary restructuring of councils in Norfolk, Suffolk and Devon that would lead to a massive upheaval in all the local councils in those county areas, diverting time and money away from improving frontline services.

Read the full transcript of the speech on the Downing Street website.