Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government
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Blears - next steps in delivering Parish power
Communities Secretary Hazel Blears today outlined plans to encourage new town and parish councils to be set up so that more decision-making powers are devolved to local people, and said she particularly wanted to see more set up in urban areas.
Recently passed legislation means that parish councils can now be established in London for the first time in 45 years.
Over £750,000 will be allocated to the National Association of Local Councils to help communities create new town and parish councils, particularly in urban areas including London, and to encourage both new and existing councils to work to meet the highest possible standards in service delivery and community engagement.
Working with organisations including the Local Government Association, the Society of Local Council Clerks and the Participatory Budgeting Unit, the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) will develop new good practice guidance on devolving decision-making, a revitalised National Training Strategy for town and parish councillors, and help for councillors to encourage greater community involvement.
New and existing councils that successfully meet approved standards will be recognised through NALC's Quality Parish and Town Council Scheme - it is hoped that the number of Quality Councils could rise from around 650 today, to as many as 2,500 by April 2011.
There are currently 8,900 parish councils and 70,000 elected parish councillors in England, covering 90 per cent of the country. Although small in size, they perform key functions in their local communities, such as managing parks and allotments, maintaining community halls and investing in community transport projects.
Nineteen new parish and town councils were set up last year. However changes announced in February make it easier for principal authorities to respond to community demands for new parish councils, without seeking Government approval.
Parish councils have been a popular and effective way to represent the views of local people, particularly in rural areas. Now, Ms Blears is looking to parish, town and neighbourhood councils to repeat their success in England's cities, representing people in densely-populated, urban areas - and, in recognition of the impact they can make, changes have been made so that, for the first time since 1963, parish councils can now be created in London.
Communities Secretary Hazel Blears said:
"I am delighted to be able to support the creation of more town and parish councils. As the smallest unit of electoral democracy, they play a vital and effective role in putting power in the hands of local people, to make the key decisions that affect their local communities.
"But while parish councils have been particularly popular and effective in representing local people's views in rural areas, I would now like to see this success repeated in our towns and cities.
"I would also encourage all new and existing parish and town councils to strive to meet the highest possible standards in delivering local services and empowering communities, and aim to become Quality councils.
"Often, services are best delivered at the most local level, with local people, who are best placed to know what is right for their local area, having a real say.
"Parish councils have a proven track record of giving local people a voice on the issues that matter most to them - the funding I am announcing today will support communities to create more parish, town and neighbourhoods councils, and help existing authorities to raise their game and stand ready to take on the additional responsibilities to make a real difference to people's lives."
Notes to editors
1. Communities in Control: real power, real people was published on 9 July, 2008, and can be found at: http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/communities/communitiesincontrol
2. Details of new powers to create parish councils were published on 15 February 2008 and can be found at: http://www.communities.gov.uk/news/corporate/697732
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