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Local authorities to grant referendums on services

September 24, 2010 at 1:35 pm

A new bill from the government is set to hand over more control to local authorities and to empower constituents. The bill, known as the Decentralisation and Localism Bill, is aimed at improving recycling schemes across England and Wales.

In a notable move towards David Cameron’s big society, if the bill is passed communities will be able to call for referendums on local services such as waste collections and tax issues. The focus is on getting local people involved in the running of their constituency and adapting services to suit each area.

It is hoped that a move towards more localised control will mean more efficient public services and encourage financial growth.

With recycling in mind, this month government minister Bob Neill gave examples of what the bill hopes to achieve. Mr Neill referred to the ‘Big Bin Vote’ carried out by Dartford council in 2007, highlighting how the vote had shown that the majority of people were opposed to the Labour government’s bi-weekly waste collections and wished to return to weekly collections.

A return to weekly collections has been a long-running Conservative policy, one that they argued for in opposition and are now hoping to see enacted.

Mr Neill hopes that other councils "will follow Dartford’s example in the difficult times ahead" and that they will "listen to local people about what services matter the most.”

The department for the environment, food and rural affairs (Defra) stated that this has meant the end for pay-as-you-throw pilot waste schemes that were being introduced after the Climate Change Act of 2008. To replace these the localism bill hopes to introduce financially based incentive schemes for recycling instead.

The localism bill will even allow local people the opportunity to veto some policies such as excessive council tax increases. It has not been made clear, outside of recycling and waste schemes, how far these powers will be extended and for what services authorities may grant referendums. Nor has it been spelled out what will be required to call a referendum or whether councils will be obliged to act in response.

The bill was outlined in May this year during the Queen’s speech. Ministers hope to pass it through parliament in the coming months. Details of other services to be affected are expected to be released in the near future.

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