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Why Councils should use the Sustainable Communities Act

Author: Emily Randall

Published on Aug 20, 2012

Why Councils should use the Sustainable Communities Act

The Sustainable Communities Act presents a unique opportunity for councils.

Councils have a choice – they can use the Act’s new process or they can ignore it. The philosophy behind the Act is that there are too many centrally imposed duties on councils and so they it allows them to be free to choose whether or not to use this process and be accountable only to their electorate, not central government.

Here are some important reasons why choosing to use the Act will benefit councils:

1. Power to determine the action and assistance government gives

Councils that use the Act’s process will be determining the nature of what they gain from using it. Any actions and assistance that government gives to councils will be a direct result of proposals made by those councils.

2. Strength in numbers

Councils can act in unison and make joint proposals. Government will have a harder time refusing to act on such well supported proposals.

3. Transferring powers and monies from central to local control

The Act also enables councils to request the transfer of powers and monies from government control or government agency control to themselves. So councils could gain control of powers and spending that affect their local areas that are currently under central control. This is very significant: consider that the vast majority of public money currently spent in any local area is not controlled by councils but by central government departments, agencies and QUANGOs.

4. Democratic citizen involvement

All politicians (and many council officers) talk a lot about lack of public involvement in democracy. The most recent Hansard Society Audit of Political Engagement showed that more than ever people do not feel it is worth getting involved in political processes. Because the Act’s process is different and truly ‘bottom-up’, by using it councils will involve people in improving their communities.

Analysis has shown that where councils have used the Act local people who got involved have felt something different, special and inspiring was happening due to the engagement and involvement they had with their councils.