Research Project

Sustainable Communities Act: The key that finally unlocks real local potential?
7 October, 2008

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Councils should use the Sustainable Communities Act to push forward towards new powers and freedoms according to the New Local Government Network. The think tank argues that the legislation – which was passed by Parliament in 2007 – gives local authorities the opportunity to develop local public services and develop new funding streams.

The new Act gives more power to local communities and councils over their neighbourhoods, but so far its potential has not been realised. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government is now required to consult local authorities on issues affecting them. Authorities will in turn consult people and organisations in their neighbourhoods, and the results of these consultations would be fed upwards in order to drive government policy.

NLGN urges local authorities to take up the opportunities the Act provides and to use it to take forward proposals including:

  • Where a PCT struggles to meet its financial targets and performance objectives, and there is organisational and popular consent, the PCT and unitary local authority, or county council, should be allowed to appoint joint posts on the senior management team
  • New powers that allow the local hypothecation of increases in local tax revenues in order to finance regeneration, capital investment and infrastructure improvements;
  • Local branches of national public services, when working in a partnership through an LAA, should be free to adapt local rules for operational management procedures without waiting for prior approval from regional or national offices;
  • Council leaders should become responsible for local public transport in their area with powers currently vested with unelected Traffic Commissioners devolved to leaders; and
  • The Secretary of State within CLG should make an explicit statement recognising the importance of LAAs, and that partners who are found not to be contributing appropriately to the delivery of these agreements will be considered appropriate candidates for the transfer of functions and funding. The Secretary of State should set out guidelines for how these applications will be assessed and considered. Other relevant Government departments (such as the Department of Health) should prove that Whitehall is committed to LAAs and joined-up delivery by supporting the strengthened Sustainable Communities Act.

Author of the paper, Anthony Brand argues:

“The Act provides local authorities and the communities they serve with considerable new powers and opportunities and enables councils to do more to drive government policy, particularly powers that extend their ability to tackle local economic, social and environmental sustainability issues”.

“In turn, the Act might help to overcome the perceptions of powerlessness and disengagement that can pervade some neighbourhoods. In this way the Act certainly chimes well with the direction of other Government policy, including the Local government Bill and the recent Community Empowerment White Paper”.

Publication Date: 7 October 2008
Authored by: Anthony Brand