Parish councils bid for bigger role in English devolution

2 Apr 15

The next government should establish unitary councils in current two-tier areas of England as part of measures to create the structures needed for devolution from Whitehall, parish councils have said.

Publishing its manifesto for the 2015 general election, the National Association of Local Councils said reorganisation to unitary principal authorities should be coupled with the establishment of more parish councils.

The report stated that devolution from Whitehall to town halls would happen ‘more efficiently and effectively’ if unitary authorities were imposed in areas that currently have both district and county administrations. These single-tier councils could then devolve down functions and services to parish councils, which NALC chair Ken Browse said would address the democratic deficit of further devolution to Scotland and Wales.

Currently, there are around 9,000 parish councils in England, but only around 35% of people live in areas served by local councils. Over 200 have been set up in the last 13 years.

Browse said increasing the number of parish councils should form part of ‘a new settlement for England’.

‘I am urging all political parties to seize this once in a generation opportunity and ensure the answer to the English question goes much wider than Westminster, with power being driven down into the hands of local people and their democratically elected representatives,’ Browse said. ‘NALC's manifesto calls for communities to be in more control of their areas; devolution to local government, especially parish councils, can help do just that.’

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