The National Association of Local Councils (NALC) What next for localism? inquiry won further support last night from senior Conservatives in local government.
The inquiry, which will examine how successful the government has been in giving power away to local communities, and to parish and town councils in particular, was welcomed by the new minister for Local Government, Brandon Lewis MP who said: “The Localism Act is not the end, it is just the beginning. We're looking to do far more than we've already done.
"This is a really exciting time for local government across the board, the chances are there and it's up to us to make the most of these opportunities”
Speaking at an event organised by NALC at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, Lewis made it clear that decentralisation was not only about a transfer of power from Whitehall to county or district councils, but also about making sure power is transferred from counties and districts to parish and town councils.
He said: “Challenge us, if we're not giving power away, or there's something we're not setting free, or there's a barrier blocking something from happening, tell me. Let me know if there is a power that a district or county isn't passing on or things that could be better run locally.”
Councillor Gary Porter, the leader of the Conservative Party in Local Government Association, echoed Lewis’s focus on the role of principal authorities.
He said: “Historically principal authorities haven't been very good at giving power back to parishes. I've been spending some time talking through with NALC how principal authorities should relate to parish councils.
"And about how we push power down to local people, getting power back to the people it belongs to. NALC's new pamphlet and inquiry get us back to people doing things for people and not fighting over whose bit of turf we're playing with”.
Porter also echoed comments made at the fringe event about improving the quality and effectiveness of elected representatives: "The real ask is how do we make sure people that are elected are of the right quality where people trust us to do the stuff that's necessary for them, but only when it's necessary".
NALC, who are running the inquiry in conjunction with the All Party Parliamentary Group on local democracy, chaired by Penrith and the Border MP, Rory Stewart OBE, recently launched their booklet of thought-provoking articles by key thinkers across the political spectrum, all providing their own answers to the question “What next for Localism?”
People are being encouraged to contribute to the enquiry - through a dedicated website at www.whatnextforlocalism.org - where they can share their own ideas and ideas and rate and comment on other people’s submissions.