The government’s flagship policy the Localism Bill has been given royal assent. The new act introduces many new measures which could have a profound effect on Eastleigh residents.
The Act will enable councillors to openly discuss planning issues with residents; the council can revert to a democratic committee style of governance; taxpayers will able to veto rises in Council Tax and social housing applications can be restricted to just the needy.
Councils and Councillors
The standards board – the organisation which investigates complaints into the conduct of councillors – has been abolished. It will now be up to councils to administer their own code of conduct.
However it will now be a criminal offence for councillors to fail to declare or misrepresent a financial interest.
Taxpayers will now be able to discover how much council officers are being paid and if officers – who accept generous pay offs to retire – are being re-employed as freelancers in a dodge known as ‘double-dipping’.
The rules on predetermination have been scrapped so councillors can now openly discuss their views on planning applications with residents.
Local folk at a recent Aviary estate residents meeting, were frustrated that councillors could not disclose their position on the proposed development of 1,300 new houses at Chesnut Avenue – both Councillors Chris Thomas and Paul Bicknell had to explain they were unable to do so by law.
The localism bill means that they can now freely voice their opposition to the plan.
Councils will be free to enlarge, merge or abolish Local Area Committees as they see fit.
Councils can now offer discounts to businesses on their rates to help create more jobs in the area.
Authorities who were compelled to adopt a dictatorial excutive system of government will be able to revert back to a democratic committee system.
The Leader of Eastleigh’s ruling Lib Dems had been forced to appoint himself as leader for a four year term and pick his own cabinet without the need to consult the chamber, but now the council can revert back to voting for their cabinet and a leader with a one year term (residents will still have the right to campaign for a directly elected mayor if they wish).
Local community groups will now have a right to bid to run council services and to take over the running of community facilities when they are threatened with sale or closure.
Residents will have the right to VETO excessive rises in council tax. If the council wants to raise the council tax by more than the government cap they will have to hold a referendum.
Local communities can develop their own local plan for housing and infrastructure – although to qualify the scheme must fit in with National strategy and the council’s local plan.
The council must give interested parties the technical help and information they need to achieve this and if the proposals are approved by local referendum then they must be adopted
Communities get the right to build the facilities they feel their community needs – homes, shops and meeting halls for example.
Councils will have greater flexibility on how they run social housing lists.
At the moment anyone can join the list regardless of their housing status. In future the council will be able to exclude persons already adequately housed.
In Eastleigh where there are currently a total of 6,150 people on the waiting list, this could mean that 1,000 applicants assessed as having ‘no priority’ could be removed from the list at a stroke of a pen.
Download DCLG guide to Localism Bill here