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Eric Pickles MP: The Localism Bill reverses a century of centralisation

PicklesBy Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles

Since ancient times governments and politicians have sought to weld power, which has always been about command and control. So it may be surprising to some that this Government is leading the clarion call for more people power. It was the American politician Tip O'Neill who famously declared that all politics is local. For years communities and councils have been crying out for a greater say in local life. For years they have been bystanders as decisions about their lives have been taken in a monolithic way by central government. And finally politicians and people see eye to eye on this one - power should be at the lowest possible level.

It was Victor Hugo who said all the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come. Localism Localism Localism has been our mantra for some time now. We entered Government listening to the people and we were clear localising power and information would be a priority. Even as global problems mounted and dominated public attention, we remained steadfast in our pursuit of localism.

And this week localism officially becomes a reality. Our flagship Localism Bill, has been passed and given the Royal Seal of approval. It marks the biggest shift in power since Victorian age - reversing 100 years of creeping centralisation and it restores a gapping local democratic deficit. As an Act of Parliament it will halt Whitehall's policy monoply and hold over the levers of power, deliver more than 30 of our coalition agreement promises and give local people that raft of new rights and powers that they wanted for too long.

This is unequivocally and unquestionably good news for councils and communities - power is flowing back into their hands. They are firmly back in charge of their own future.

Councillors will be able to work for their residents free from nuisance complaints or claims of bias, and town halls will be able to give out businesses rate discounts of their own to local firms for the first time ever. They can decide who goes on their housing waiting lists and collect the rent themselves.

People will be able to vote against excessive council tax rises, elect a mayor for their city, save a community treasure or take over running a local service. The days of tick box consultation processes are over, communities will be the ones making the planning decisions for their neighbourhood. Local Armchair auditors will be able to see whether their council is wasting their council tax on bumper wages for their chums. Council house tenants can move closer to relatives without free of losing their tenancy.

And the compulsory imposition of Whitehall know best decisions have been shut off at the source.This act of localism is an act of political realism. Gone are the days of top-down command and control over communities - they have ceased - everybody is crossing the Rubicon into a new era of people power and local say so.


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