Localism aims to shift power from central government back into the hands of individuals, communities and councils. In November 2011 the Localism Bill became an Act. The Localism Act aims to:
- provide new freedoms and flexibilities for councils
- give new rights and powers to local communities and individuals
- reform the planning system to make it more democratic and effective
- ensure that decisions about housing are taken locally
The Act also put in place new community rights, relating to four areas:
The Right to Challenge allows voluntary and community groups including social enterprises, parish councils and local authority staff (needs two or more staff) the right to express an interest in taking over the running of a council run service. Worcester City Council is required to consider and respond to this expression of interest and where it accepts the expressed interest run a procurement exercise for the service.
The Right to Bid is intended to help local communities to keep assets of community value in the local area/community. This might be a community centre or facility, local pub etc which is threatened with closure or sale. The Council is required to maintain a list of assets which local communities have nominated as having a community value. When a listed asset becomes available for sale or change in ownership, the Act gives community groups time to put together a bid to raise the capital needed to bid to buy the asset when it is available on the open market.
The community Right to Build, part of neighbourhood planning, gives local people the power to approve small local developments without the need for a separate traditional planning application. Such a process would require local support through a referendum and would also need to meet minimum criteria.
The Act gives communities the right to draw up a neighbourhood plan so they can influence the future of their local community. They will be able to form a neighbourhood forum to agree on the kind of new houses, shops and businesses that should be developed in their local area. Using neighbourhood planning local communities will not be able to prevent the amount of development but can influence where the development happens.