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UPDATED: FEBRUARY 2013

 

MPs URGE LOCAL GOVERNMENT IS GIVEN ITS INDEPENDENCE

 

Local government should have its independence from Whitehall control enshrined in law, to deliver a devolution deal for England, a group of MPs have recommended.

A report issued by the political and constitutional reform committee, (www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmpolcon/656/656.pdf) calls for local government to receive statutory protection from central government interference through a code embedded in the 1911 Parliament Act.

According to the MPs, the proposals could enable devolution for England without the need for separate regional assemblies or a national parliament but instead through local (parish and town) councils.

The committee recommends English councils, including local councils should be offered financial independence on a “least change-maximum impact” basis by having a proportion of income tax assigned to them – following the precedent now set in Scotland and also being considered for Wales by the Silk Commission.

Additionally, independent councils should be allowed to raise additional funds providing they have gained local consent.

Chair of the political and constitutional reform committee, Graham Allen MP, said such financial powers, combined with accountability and transparency checks, would give English councils full power and autonomy.

“By codifying the rights of local government to be an independent entity, you put a wall, a bulwark, a fortress around the rights of local government.

“Currently the government is going with the flow with the rhetoric of localism and we’re just taking it one more logical step”.

Professor George Jones and Professor John Stewart; Cllr Roderick Bluh, leader of Swindon Council and the National Association of Local Councils (NALC), raised concerns that the draft codes devised by the committee had a lack of reference to local councils. The committee reassured NALC that the draft code is intended to cover every size and shape of council.