LOCAL GOVERNMENT

We want to shift power from Westminster to people. We are ending the era of top-down government by giving new powers to local councils, communities, neighbourhoods and individuals.

There's much more to come, as the Localism Act powers fully come into effect, as we cut more central red tape, and as we give councils more financial freedoms to help promote economic growth.

The bigger picture

Eric Pickles• We have frozen council tax for 2 years – delivering a real terms cut to households. The compounded saving of both years' freeze is worth up to £147 on a Band D home.

• We have slimmed planning policy guidance down from over 1,000 pages to just 50 and designed a framework that supports growth with a powerful presumption in favour of sustainable development.

• We are helping people own their own home by dramatically increasing the Right to Buy discount rate so that tenants now benefit from a discount of up to £75,000. The new Right to Buy scheme will see any additional homes bought under the scheme leading directly to the provision of new affordable homes for rent.

Radical devolution of power

Action to date

• Devolved greater power and freedoms to local government and community groups through the Localism Act.

• Councils now have the freedom to act creatively and innovatively to improve services, drive down costs and enhance their local area through the 'general power of competence'.

• Residents now have the right to veto excessive council tax increases. If any council proposes to raise council tax above a specified level, a referendum is triggered. This year the level was 3.5 per cent and no council tried to increase council tax above this level.

Planned actions

• As the Localism Act powers fully come into effect, as we cut more central red tape, and as we give councils more financial freedoms to help promote economic growth.

Greater financial autonomy to local government and community groups

Action to date

• Allowed councils to determine how they should spent their money by ending the ring fencing of government revenue grants.

Planned actions

• Localising business rates will free councils from dependence upon central government grants and give them a strong financial incentive to drive local economic growth, supporting local firms and creating local jobs. Our Local Government Finance Bill will enable councils to directly retain a portion of their business rate growth.

• We will give councils the freedom to borrow against future income from business rates through the introduction of tax increment financing.

Giving local people the power to protect community assets and run community services

Action to date

• Introduced the Community Right to Challenge to allow voluntary and community groups to express an interest in taking over the running of local authority services, making services more responsive to local needs and delivering better value for money.

• Introduced the Community Right to Bid to give communities the right to bid to save local facilities threatened with closure.

• Introduced the Community Right to Bid to give communities the right to bid to save local facilities threatened with closure.

Planned actions

• We are piloting community budgets in 12 pilot areas with a view to develop Neighbourhood Community Budgets by March 2013.

Reforming the planning system

Action to date

• Reformed national planning policy, turning over 1,000 pages of Whitehall guidance into 50 pages. We have given new powers to councils to resist unwanted garden grabbing, protected the Green Belt and introduced a new planning protection for valuable local green spaces.

• Abolishing Regional Spatial Strategies and returning decision-making powers on housing and planning to local councils.

• Granted councils new powers to tackle unauthorised traveller sites and scrapped John Prescott's planning rules on travellers which fuelled community tensions.

• Introduced the Community Right to Build to enable communities to approve new local developments without the need to go through the normal planning application process.

Planned actions

• Having cut more than 1,000 pages of planning policy to 50, we are now going to review around 6,000 pages of supporting planning guidance.

• We will simplify the information required to support planning applications.

• We will shorten and streamline the process for determining planning appeals.

Encouraging home building

Action to date

• Launched a £570 million Get Britain Building investment fund to support building firms in need of development finance to get stalled sites moving again.

• Ensured that growing areas have the resources to meet the needs of their new residents and existing communities through the New Homes Bonus. Under this scheme the Government matches the council tax raised from new homes for the first six years.

Planned actions

• We are providing guarantees of up to £40 billion worth of major infrastructure projects and up to £10 billion of new homes.

Making it easier for everyone to get up the housing ladder

Action to date

• Reduced the cost of mortgages thanks to the action taken to tackle Labour’s deficit (just a one per cent rise in market interest rates represents £1,000 extra on every family’s mortgage bill).

• Increased Right to Buy discounts to £75,000, reversing John Prescott’s stealth cuts.

• Supported home ownership and construction through the FirstBuy (helping first-time buyers) and NewBuy (helping people without a large deposit) schemes.

Planned actions

• The release of surplus government land to provide capacity for over 100,000 housing units. This work will continue until 2015.

Bringing empty homes back into use

Action to date

• We have put together a package of £160 million to get empty homes back into productive use.

• Appointed TV presenter George Clarke as an independent adviser to the Government on empty homes.

• Provided a cash bonus to help councils bring empty homes into use under the New Homes Bonus. So far this has helped bring nearly 38,000 empty homes into use, with rewards of £64 million for councils.

Planned actions

• We will allow councils to introduce an Empty Homes Premium on properties in their area that have been vacant for more than two years.

• We will continue to fund our programme to bring empty homes back into use until 2015.

Addressing the issue of homelessness

Action to date

• Introduced a more comprehensive method of assessing the scale of the problem of homelessness across the country.

• Brought together ministers from eight departments to work closely together to help rough sleepers and those at risk of homelessness to stay off the streets.

• Supported the work of local authorities and the voluntary sector with £400 million over four years through the Preventing Homelessness Grant. On top of this we secured an additional £70 million in 2011 to help local agencies prevent and tackle homelessness.

Planned actions

• Investing a further £3.5 million for more homelessness help and to roll out the No Second Night Out initiative across the country to support efforts to ensure no-one has to spend more than one night on the streets.

• Councils across the country will receive £160 million over the next two years in Homelessness Prevention Grants – this offers certainty that homelessness services will be funded to the end of this Parliament.

Freezing council tax

Action to date

• Worked with councils to freeze council tax for two years. Under Labour, council tax more than doubled. Under this Government, bills have fallen by 4.4 per cent in real terms.

• Scrapped Labour's plans for an expensive and intrusive council tax revaluation, which would have meant soaring tax bills for millions of hard-working families and pensioners.

Planned actions

• Residents will be protected from excessive council tax increases by the right to veto them through a local referendum.

Letting local people know their money is being spent

Action to date

• Opened up councils' books with a new era of town hall transparency, with greater local autonomy for councils being accompanied by stronger local accountability.

• Introduced a 'presumption in favour of openness' so that all council meetings are held in public.

• Made it easier for new 'social media' reporting of council executive meetings.

• Documents relating to key council decisions, public meetings and background papers must now be published on the local authority's website.

Planned actions

• Consider what further transparency requirements may be needed, including whether compliance with the Code should be a legal requirement.

Helping troubled families

Action to date

• Put together a £448 million three-year budget to join up local services dealing with troubled families on the frontline.

• Put in place a payments by result model to get children off the streets and back into school, reduce youth crime and anti-social behaviour and get adults back to work.

Planned actions

• We will continue to work alongside local authorities to turn around the lives of 120,000 troubled families by 2015.

Supporting and incentivising local growth

Action to date

• Cut business rates for small firms and small shops by doubling their rate relief for two and a half years. 330,000 small firms are paying no rates at all thanks to this tax holiday.

• Scrapped Labour's ports tax – an unfair retrospective business rate on firms in ports, which threatened to decimate those firms and damage England’s whole manufacturing sector.

• Announced 27 town centre pilots which have a share of a £1.5 million fund to kick-start some innovative ideas to revive the high street.

• Set up a £500,000 fund for Business Improvement Districts to help town centres access loans for their set-up costs.

• Launched a Future High Street X fund to reward the areas delivering the most effective and innovative plans to bring their town centres back to life.

• Set up a £10 million High Street Investment Fund for councils in areas blighted by empty shops and recovering from the riots. This will help bring entrepreneurs back to their communities.

Planned actions

• We are giving the town teams who were unsuccessful in their bids to become town centre pilots the opportunity to come forward with their MP and sign up to our national pledge to become a Town Team Partner. Those that do will receive a share of a multi-million pound fund, have the opportunity to receive direct mentoring support from experts, attend events and workshops to address the key challenges facing struggling town centres, and join an online community to receive tips and advice from retail experts.

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