The Act, which was passed in 2007 with cross party support, gives communities and councils the right to come up with proposals and to then submit these to central government. These proposals can be for any government action or assistance that would reverse community decline and protect community assets.
In 2009, a Liberal Democrat motion calling for Haringey Council to ‘opt in’ and use the powers given in the Sustainable Communities Act was passed unanimously. Since then, however, the Labour-run Council have not submitted any proposals
Councils that have used the Act have achieved positive results. In Sheffield, for instance, the then Lib Dem-led Council made a proposal to Central Government, suggesting that the Council be given power to run and plan the post office network on a trial basis. The proposal was adopted. As a result, a post office was saved from closure and a 5% growth in local Post Office revenue and significant savings to the council’s budget was achieved.
In June of this year, the Government made new regulations, which improved the Act’s process and re-established the rights of citizens and councils that use it. Localworks, the organisation promoting the Act, are calling on councils to pass a new motion resolving to use the strengthened Act.
Steve Shaw, National Co-ordinator for Localworks, said:
“The Act could make a huge difference to boroughs such as Haringey. It provides a mechanism through which local residents can have their ideas – about their local communities – passed to central Government. Government then has a duty not merely to consult but to negotiate and try to reach agreement on those ideas, so this process has real teeth.
“If local councils want more power to improve their communities and save money, then this is their chance.
“I thank Lynne Featherstone for calling on Haringey Council to make use of the Act.”
Lynne Featherstone commented:
“It is just typical of Labour-run Haringey to opt in to the Act and then do nothing. They have so far failed to take the opportunity to use the Act and make proposals to central Government.
“I have now written to the Interim Chief Executive to the Council to alert him to this and ask what steps will be taken from now on in this regard.
“I want Haringey residents to be able to have their say and express their ideas about our community. I am, therefore, very happy to call on the Council to use this Act. I hope, for the sake of our community, that they listen!”