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December 2006 - The Local Government White Paper

 
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 09, 2006 12:47 pm    Post subject: December 2006 - The Local Government White Paper Reply with quote

The Local Government White Paper - "Strong and Prosperous Communities" - is an incredibly important document. The proposals and policies outlined will not just have an impact on the way that Parish Councils are run, but also on the make-up and administration of all local governance. Some have even suggested that the White Paper even spells the beginning of the end for Parish Councils, but here we look at why this is not the case, and why Parish Councils have a very bright, though very different future ahead of them.

The central theme of the White Paper is very clear: local government, local communities and local public service providers will all be given more power, responsibility and freedom to make the changes that they feel are required in their area. Essentially, this means that local communities will be empowered to be able to take a more 'hands on' role, and to be able to make important decisions and tackle issues that are affecting the local area.

What this means in reality is that local communities, and of these we mean all forms of local governance below District and Borough Councils, will have more to do. The White Paper calls this the 'Power of Well-Being', which is to be extended to Quality Parish Councils. This means that those councils which have achieved Quality Status will be able to promote and improve the social, environmental and economic well-beineg of their local area. Additionally, bye-laws could be requested by what is termed 'Principal Councils', namely those councils with Quality Status who are on hand to ascertain where there is local demand for such a law. It also provides for an increased "consultation of citizens and communities about the shape of local services and policies using, for example, surveys, focus groups or neighbourhood and parish plans. Indeed, the "Community Call for Action" is a new scheme whereby Parish Councillors can be called to account for their work in the local community. Finally, it also means that Local Charters, or "Parish Plans" will become a necessity, as greater emphasis will be required on due process and neighbourhood management.

What therefore is missing from this list of new powers and responsibilities? In this writer's opinion there are two glaring omissions:

1. How exactly the Parish Councils are expected to achieve these aims and objectives. It is all very well providing grand aspirations and final outcomes for the local community, but the White Paper provides very little in the way of concrete recommendations and preferred policies.

2. How is it all to be paid for?

Unfortunately for Parish Councils, I think that I can see how it is to be paid for - The Quality Council Scheme. Those councillors and clerks amongst you who have achieved QCS will be fully aware of how difficult, time-consuming and laborious the process can be, and how many enormous changes are required to a system that to all intents and purposes has been working well for decades. However, the Government has spoken, and they have decided that the future is to have Councils that conform to one quality standard. Those who have this standard know that the financial rewards are more readily accessible.

This in itself is not a particularly bad thing, were it not for the fact that so many Councils will have to make dramatic (and sometimes detrimental) changes to the way that they work. It means that Parish Councils are going to have to modernise to at least the basic level required under the scheme. For those Councils who do not adopt the scheme, we really do not know what the future holds.

To Download the White Paper Summary: CLICK HERE (339 KB)

To Download the White Paper Volume 1: CLICK HERE (1,691 KB)

To Download the White Paper Volume 2: CLICK HERE (624 KB)
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