The passing of the Localism Act has transformed the power relationship both between central and local government and between councils and their residents.
What happens at your local town hall affects your daily life.
In planning, for example, the Act formally abolishes the undemocratic regional strategies and repatriates powers back to councils whilst also allowing local communities to develop neighbourhood plans for the development and use of land.
The Act also introduces a ‘general power of competence’, which the LGA has long argued for. Now, rather than relying on specific powers to be able to do something, councils will have the legal reassurance and confidence to innovate, drive down costs and deliver more efficient services. Rather than having to constantly ask permission from Whitehall, councils will instead be looking to local residents for direction.
The Act also recognises that localism involves empowering communities to actively shape and improve their areas. It therefore includes provision for a ‘Community Right to Bid’ which would allow local groups to take over important assets such as shops, pubs, libraries and leisure centres when they are threatened with closure.
This localism agenda was developed by the Party in opposition in close consultation with Conservative local government. I therefore firmly believe that it is Conservative councils who are best placed to make the most of these new freedoms and this is one clear reason why a vote for your Conservative candidate on May 3rd is so important.
Whilst the former American Congressman Tip O’Neill famously declared that ‘all politics is local,’ it has unfortunately been the case that local elections in the UK have historically been influenced by and viewed through the prism of national politics.
In some ways this was the inevitable product of a highly centralised system which often left councils with the role of implementing decisions that were made elsewhere.
That has all changed and the May 3rd elections are all about your council and how efficient and effective they are.
In these difficult economic times it is essential that councils do all that they can to support hard-pressed families. That is why I am delighted that the vast majority of Conservative councils have accepted Eric Pickles’ council tax freeze offer.
Whilst council tax bills more than doubled during the Labour years last year’s freeze saved an estimated £72 on a Band D Bill and this year’s is expected to do likewise.
Finally, unlike Labour Councils, many of whom has sought to play party politics in relation to the public expenditure cuts, Conservative councils have instead focused on reducing bureaucracy and backroom costs rather than targeting frontline services.
It is more likely that less of your council tax will be paid to senior managers compared with Labour-controlled councils. You are more likely to pay less council tax if your council is Conservative run and you are more likely to have lost more days due to strike action if your council is Labour-run.
So your vote really does matter on May 3rd. If you vote for the Conservatives you will be stating that as a local resident you wish to take advantage of the freedoms offered by the Localism Act, that you support the Council Tax freeze and that you trust your council to implement sensible cuts which target bureaucracy rather than services.
In voting Conservative you will be electing a council that is instinctively and distinctively better.