Localism and council funding: today’s announcements

Two big pieces of local government news today from the coalition government – more powers but less money.

On the more powers front, here are some of the highlights from the Localism Bill:

  • A General Power of Competence for Councils – in other words, councils will in future be able to do what they think is right for their area, rather than only be able to take action in areas laid down by central government
  • Letting councils return to the Committee System if they wish, and introducing the option for more Directly Elected Mayors
  • Abolition of the Standards Board
  • Giving local people the power to veto “excessive” council tax increases
  • Devolve greater powers to London, such as housing, regeneration and the Olympics Legacy

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat Local Government Minister Andrew Stunell said of the financial settlement:

The cuts are tough, there’s no doubt about that, but the Liberal Democrats have worked hard to deliver a fair settlement for local government.

We’ve ensured that no council will face cuts of greater than 9% of their total spending power, and have guaranteed that authorities which previously received Working Neighbourhoods Fund will receive transitional funding to help wind up the programme.

Labour’s criticism won’t wash. They outlined plans for £52bn of cuts, and now won’t say where they would fall.

And contrary to the Labour scare stories, we’ve delivered a fair settlement for local authorities, including ensuring that the most vulnerable are protected, which has always been the Lib Dems’ top priority.

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