Local government

Decentralisation

Government is overseeing a fundamental shift of power away from Westminster to councils, communities and homes across the nation. A radical localist vision is turning government on its head by giving power to the people rather than hoarding authority within government.

Background

Over time Britain has become increasingly centralised. Central Government has exerted a high degree of control over local action and has increasingly moved into the space that others should own. The time has come to disperse power more widely in Britain today; to recognise that we only make progress if we help people to come together to make life better.

The Government is committed to a radical shift of power from Westminster to local people. Localised decision-making will become a normal part of everyday life, giving people more say, choice and ownership of their local facilities and services. By increasing town hall transparency, people will know what's going on, who's spending their money and on what. People want better for less in their services and we will free up councils to make that happen by giving them greater flexibility for local spending decisions and lifting the bureaucratic burden of targets and inspection. This will free councils and professionals to prioritise resources, redesign services and collaborate with others, ensuring that the vital services that their areas value can be delivered.

People will have a greater reason to vote for councils and mayors. Individuals, families, local communities and particularly neighbourhoods, the building blocks of localism, will be re-energised and empowered, and innovation and ideas will flow from local people and enterprises.

Greg Clark MP has been appointed Minister of State for Decentralisation with a clear mandate across Whitehall to progress the coalition government's commitment to giving away power. Greg Clark will report on progress to the Prime Minister in summer 2011.

What we are doing

Decentralisation and localism are at the heart of the Department's activities and priorities. The Department's Structural Reform Plan sets out how the Department's activities over the period to 2015 will put decision making in the hands of local people, give power away from the centre and make central and local government more transparent. See DCLG Business Plan 2011-2015: www.communities.gov.uk/publications/corporate/businessplan2011.

The Department has already made good progress on decentralisation. For example, we have already announced:

  • The abolition of the Comprehensive Area Assessment and disbanding of the Audit Commission
  • The end of central monitoring of the targets associated with Local Area Agreements, giving councils the freedom to amend or drop LAAs and the associated 4,700 targets
  • The abolition of top-down regional bureaucracy associated with the Government Office network and Regional Development Agencies.

The Localism Bill will give greater powers to councils and neighbourhoods and give greater control to local communities. It will help set the foundations for the Big Society by radically transforming the relationships between central government, local government, communities and individuals. More information can be found at: www.communities.gov.uk/localgovernment/decentralisation/localismbill/.

The Department has published Decentralisation and the Localism Bill: An Essential Guide (available for download below). This makes the case for a radical shift of power from the centralised state to local communities, and describes the six essential actions required to deliver decentralisation down through every level of government to citizens. In particular, the guide focuses on the Localism Bill, which provides the legislative foundation for change and exemplifies all of the six actions described.

For further background on the links between decentralisation and the Big Society, see also the speech delivered by Greg Clark MP, Minister for Decentralisation, at Policy Exchange in July 2010: www.communities.gov.uk/speeches/corporate/growingbigsociety.

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