The Localism Bill and Cultural Learning

21 December 2010

Last week the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles introduced the

Localism Bill to Parliament. This bill aims to shift power, decision making and responsibility away from the centre and out to local people and individuals. Here is the press release .As ever, here at the CLA we aim to give you a quick overview of some of the key headlines for cultural learning partners.The Department for Communities and Local Government have produced a guide to their thinking that can be read here. This guide sets out the six main actions that the Government plan to focus on. They are:

  • Lifting the burden of bureaucracy
  • Empower communities to do things their way
  • Increasing local control of public finance
  • Diversify the supply of public services
  • Open up government to public scrutiny
  • Strengthening accountability to local people
It is important to note that this Bill doesn’t address the amounts of money that will be available for public services but sets out a framework for spending and delivery.There are a number of elements in this Bill which will affect organisations engaging in cultural learning and they include the following:
  • Community right to buy – The Bill will give communities powers to save local assets threatened with closure, by allowing them to bid for the ownership and management of community assets
  • Civil servants to act as ‘bureaucracy busters’ for community projects, providing local people with the back-up they need to unblock obstacles and achieve their goal
  • Community Infrastructure Levy – The Bill will require local authorities to allocate a proportion of Community Infrastructure Levy revenues back to the neighbourhood from which it was raised.  This will allow those most directly affected by development to benefit from it and could mean that local communities recieve up to 50% of the money.
  • Different sources of public money to be pooled to create budgets to tackle difficult cross-cutting issues within an area. These are known as ‘place-based’ or community budgets. Next year, this will be pioneered by 16 areas across the country with an aim to make them available everywhere by 2013
Blackburn with Darwen is one of the first ‘community budget’ local authority pilots. Back in November, Tom Stannard, Director of Policy and Communications at Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council wrote this Guardian Article on their experiences. A full list of pilots can be found in this Local Government Chronicle Article .
  • Community right to challenge – The Bill will give communities a right of challenge to run local authority services. This means that local communities will be able to get more involved in the delivery of public services and shape them in a way that will meet local preferences
  • Local referendums – The Bill will give local residents the power to instigate, via a petition, local referendums on any local issue. these will be non-binding, but the local authority will have to show that they have 'taken account' of the outcome
Here at the CLA we will be particularly interested to see how the work of our colleagues using the ‘I Value the Arts’ campaign to lobby for cultural learning will be supported by this element.Alongside all these strands the Bill sets out plans to publish details of all local and national government spending and to reduce targets and monitoring to a minimum.