Secretary of State Eric Pickles and his Localism Bill

Department of Communities Press Release, but summary is below

BBC summary of the Localism Bill (taken from here):

• Councils will have a "general power of competence", allowing them to do anything not specifically banned. Fire authorities will get a similar power

• Councils will be allowed to return to the committee structure if they want.

• Councillors will be able to engage in normal political activities without being liable to legal challenge when they take decisions on the grounds they have a closed mind. Ministers want to clarify the law on this because the current rules have led to some councillors being discouraged from speaking on certain issues.

• The Standards Board for England will be abolished.

• Local Government Ombudsman rulings will become binding.

• Councils will have to publish a senior pay policy statement. If councils want to ignore it, there will have to be a vote at full council.

• Councils will lose the power to charge for bin collections.

• The duty on councils to promote greater involvement in local democracy will be abolished. Ministers think this is "an unnecessary burden" on councils.

• The government will be given the power to recover money from councils if they incur fines by breaking EU law.

• Councils will be given the power to instigate referendums. They will be non-binding.

• Voters will be given the power to veto excessive council tax increases. Any increase above a ceiling set by the communities secretary will have to be approved in a referendum.

• Community groups will have a "right to challenge", meaning they can apply to run local services.

• Communities will be given the right to buy certain community assets. Councils will keep a list of valued assets and, if they are put up for sale, communities will be given time to raise the money to buy them.

• The planning inspectorate will lose the right to rewrite local plans.

• Neighbourhoods will be given the right to permit development in their areas without the need for planning applications.

• Developers planning large schemes will have to consult the community before submitting a planning application.

• The infrastructure planning commission will be abolished. Instead there will be a new fast-track process for approving major infrastructure projects.

• Councils will be able to decide who qualifies for their housing waiting list.

• Councils will be allowed to offer short-term council house tenancies.

• A national homeswap scheme for social housing tenants will be set up.

• The law requiring home information packs will be abolished. (It has already been suspended.)

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