The Localism Act sets out a series of measures intended to transfer power from central government to local authorities and local communities. It is intended ‘…to help people and their locally elected representatives to achieve their own ambitions.’
Royal Assent for the Localism Act was announced on 15 November 2011. Different parts of the Act come into effect at different times, and further details are required for some aspects before they can be implemented (for example, the National Planning Policy Framework which was published in March 2012).
The act sets out new powers and duties in relation to:
- Local authorities.
- The act frees local authorities to behave in ways other than those that the law specifically says they can, provided they do not break other laws and as long as they continue to comply with duties placed on them. Similar powers have been given to Fire and Rescue Authorities, Integrated Transport Authorities, Passenger Transport Executives, Combined Authorities and Economic Prosperity Boards.
- It abolishes the Standards Board Regime in favour of local authorities drawing up their own codes,
- It makes it a criminal offence for councillors to deliberately withhold or misrepresent a financial interest.
- It makes it clear that councillors may play an active part in local discussions.
- It gives local authorities more freedom to offer business rate discounts.
- It establishes referendum in the largest cities outside London, to decide whether to have an elected mayor.
- It gives greater powers to locally elected representatives for housing and regeneration in London.
- It enables Ministers to transfer local public functions from central government and quangos to local authorities, combined authorities and economic prosperity boards.
- It removes the ability for local authorities to charge households for overfilling their bins or to levy extra tariffs for removing household waste.
- It requires councillors to vote on and to publish a statement of their pay policies.
- It requires local authorities to hold a referendum if they intend to raise taxes above the limit set by the Secretary of State.
- It requires local authorities to maintain a list of assets of community value which have been nominated by the local community.
Community rights give communities greater powers to shape local developments and local services. They were introduced by the Localism Act and have developed to include:
- The Community Right to Bid.
- The Community Right to Challenge.
- The Community Right to Build.
- The Community Right to Reclaim Land.
- The Right to Contest.
- New neighbourhood planning measures.
- The Our Place! programme.
See Community rights for more information.
NB For additional information see the article: National Planning Policy Framework.
- The act abolishes regional planning strategies.
- It requires local authorities and other public bodies to work together on planning issues.
- It gives communities the right to draw up neighbourhood plans. As long as the plan complies with national policy, with the local authority plan and with other legal requirements, local people will be able to vote on it in a referendum. The neighbourhood plan will come into force if the majority of those who vote in the referendum approve it. See Neighbourhood planning.
- It gives community organisations the ability to bring forward development proposals without requiring a separate traditional planning application as long as they meet minimum criteria and demonstrate local support through a referendum. See Neighbourhood development order and Community right to build order.
- It introduces a new requirement for developers to consult local communities before submitting planning applications for certain developments.
- It strengthens planning authorities’ powers to tackle abuses of the planning system.
- It reforms the community infrastructure levy.
- It limits the ability of planning inspectors to change local plans and makes the development of local plans more accountable to local communities rather than central government.
- It abolishes the Infrastructure Planning Commission, restoring its powers to ministers.
- The act gives local authorities greater freedom to set policies about who qualifies to go on waiting lists for social housing.
- It allows social housing landlords to grant tenancies for a fixed length of time (the minimum tenancy will be two years, but with five years or more being the norm).
- It allows local authorities to meet their homelessness duty by providing private rented homes.
- It changes the way social housing is funded by allowing councils to keep rent raised and use it to maintain social homes.
- It enables people to access details of tenants with whom they may wish to swap social homes.
- It reforms the way that social housing is regulated.
- It repeals the laws required Home Information Packs (HIP's).
There are a number of concerns about the bill:
- How will it be implemented?
- What impact it will have in on the ground?
- Will local authorities support its implementation?
- Whether powers will be taken up by a small section of society, already used to wielding power.
- Whether there is adequate guidance available to support community groups.
- Whether there is adequate funding available to support community groups.
- Where accountability for decision making will lie.
- Whether the government will intervene if there are local difficulties.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- City deals.
- Community Infrastructure Levy.
- Community right to bid.
- Community right to build.
- Community right to reclaim land.
- Community rights.
- Devolution and development.
- Local development order.
- Local Enterprise Partnerships.
- National Planning Policy Framework.
- Neighbourhood planning.
- Neighbourhood development order.
- Place-shaping: a shared ambition for the future of local government.
- Self build initiative.
- Social housing.
- Village green registration.
 External references
- The Localism Act.
- RIBA guides to localism.
- Planning advisory service.
- The Localism Act: An LGIU (Local Government Information Unit) Guide.
- Localism in London, A report by the London Assembly planning committee published in November 2014.
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