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Government consults on making it easier to set up town and parish councils

The Government has launched a further consultation on measures to reduce the restrictions preventing or hindering communities from requesting that a local authority carry out a community governance review.

The proposals would:

  1. Lower the threshold of signatures required to make a valid petition: the percentage of local government electors required to sign a community governance petition (and trigger a community governance review) will be reduced from 10% to 7.5% for areas with over 2,500 electors. The proportions required for smaller electorates will also be reduced in line with this change.
  2. Reduce the amount of time the local authority can take to complete a community governance review: “The amendments relating to introducing a time limit from 12-months from the date the review begins, to 12 months from the date of receipt of the petition or application is supported by the outcomes of the [first] public consultation”;
  3. Allow Neighbourhood Forums to trigger a community governance review: Forums with a neighbourhood development plan under the Localism Act 2011 that has passed a referendum will have the right to submit an application for the creation of a new parish. This will have the same weight as a submitted community governance petition.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said the measures would “remove the burdensome elements of the current process, making it easier for local communities and campaigners alike to take the first steps towards setting up a town or parish council”.

The DCLG added that a legislative reform order under s. 1 of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006 would be used to amend the relevant sections of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007.

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The National Association of Local Councils (NALC) welcomed the ‘spirit’ of the measures but expressed renewed concern over the lack of appeal mechanism when a principal – ie county, borough, district or unitary – council turns down a request for a local council.

Cllr Ken Browse, chairman of NALC, said: “Local councils are popular with people and can really make a difference, and for too long communities have battled with burdensome bureaucracy to get them created. The proposals to remove red tape, simplify and streamline the current process is common sense. We welcome the continued impetus on the creation of more new local councils to deliver services to local communities and give them a voice.

“The Government’s measures is a step in the right direction to help people and communities create democratic councils and get on with delivering grassroots level services taking local action. Of fundamental importance is a strong presumption in favour of creation and avoiding community groups being pitted against their principal council in a David versus Goliath battle.”

Details of the consultation can be viewed here.

 

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