Conservatives want to build a stronger, safer society where opportunity and power are spread much more widely and fairly. We believe communities are strongest when everyone has a free and fair say in the decisions that affect them.From local council services and planning decisions, to local policing priorities, people should have as much power and choice as possible.Under Labour, the rise of top-down central and regional government control has undermined local councils and allowed people too little say over decisions that directly affect them locally. Without real local democracy, communities aremade weaker: social responsibility, civic involvement and the inclusion of vulnerable people in social life are all beinginhibited.This Green Paper outlines our new programme of political decentralisation to revitalise democracy and strengthencommunity life; a five-pillar strategy to shift power away from the central state and firmly back to local people:
1. Giving local communities a share in local growth
Under Labour, central government has tried to drive house-building and development through top-down targets. Butcouncils that encourage house building and new business activity are not guaranteed any financial reward, and caneven lose out. Instead of top-down targets, we need a new financial framework which rewards this essential activity.We will:•enable local authorities to benefit financially when they deliver the housing that local people need;•give local authorities the right to retain the financial benefits arising from new business activity in their areas;•give local authorities a new discretionary power to levy business rate discounts; and •make the local government funding settlement more transparent.
2. Freeing local government from central control
We will free councils from the central and regional bureaucracy which drives up our council tax, and ensure localservices are delivered according to local need, not the requirements of distant government officials. We will:•end Whitehall capping powers and give local residents the power to veto high council tax rises via localreferendum;•drastically reduce the centrally imposed bureaucratic burdens that drive up council tax;•enlarge the freedom of local councils to act in the best interests of residents, by giving them a ‘general power of competence’;•give local councils greater freedom to determine how they carry out their statutory regulatory duties;•abolish all process targets applied to local authorities, and free councils from intrusive and ineffective inspectionregimes by abolishing the Comprehensive Area Assessment; and •end all forced amalgamations of local authorities.
3. Giving local people more power over local government
We will put more power in the hands of local people and make councillors more accountable to their citizens. Wewant people to be able to see clearly, and exercise real influence over, what their elected representatives are doingwith the power they are trusted with. We will:•provide citizens in all large cities with the opportunity to choose to have an elected mayor;•give people the power to instigate referendums on local issues;•make the police accountable to the people they serve through directly elected commissioners, crime maps and quarterly beat meetings;•put the power to judge the behaviour of councillors back in the hands of their citizens by abolishing the StandardsBoard, and repealing rules that prevent councillors representing their constituents’ views on local issues;•permit local authorities to devolve unlimited funding to ward councillors; and •let local people choose the organisational structures of their local councils.