Local democracy during coronavirus

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Agenda item

Sustainable Communities Act

Zoe Burns, Head of Neighbourhoods and Business Support, will provide a presentation about the Act and what it means to the area.


Zoe Burns, Head of Neighbourhoods and Business Support, gave a presentation on the Sustainable Communities Act, and the City of York Council’s plan for implementing it.


The following points were noted:


4.1       The Act is aiming to devolve powers from central government to local councils in situations where it is felt that local people will have a better understanding of how to deal with an issue. This is a grassroots initiative, looking to get ideas from local residents.

4.2       The scope of the Act is very broad, covering social, economic and environmental issues; anything that can promote the sustainability of local communities.

4.3       The council is looking for ideas from community groups, parish councils and other groups as well as individuals. These will be examined by a citizens’ panel and agreed upon before forwarding onto the Local Government Association, which will in turn filter it up to the Secretary of State.

4.4       The deadline for suggestions is the 8th of May. The criteria for  suggestions are that it is only something that central government can currently do, and that the granting of the power to local government could be shown to increase the sustainability of the community.


Residents made the following comments:


a)     Isn’t this what the normal democratic process should be? Ideas from bottom should trickle up.

a.     This Act means that the government cannot ignore the suggestions made; they will have to act on them.

b)     Why does it go through so many filters?

a.     It goes through the Council Executive because they are required by the Act to reach agreement.

c)      Not clear what is being asked for. Could the council provide proposals for people to vote on?

a.     This is against the spirit of the act. It is supposed to be a bottom-up approach.

d)     How much money can you ask for?

a.     Not about money, although it may follow once a power is granted.

e)     Why is the consultation period so short? How long has the council known about it?

a.     A council motion was adopted at the end of November 2008. We have a deadline of 31st July set to submit final proposals, so suggestions need to be received well before then.

f)        Vast majority of residents have had very little time.

a.     This is the first opportunity we have had to take it to ward committees.

g)     It seems to suggest a spending element; not just revenue generation.

a.     Yes. It’s about power transfer – for example, to stop people parking on grass verges.

h)      Once the submissions have been agreed upon, will you get back to people?

a.     If you would like us to do so then let us know and we can make sure that happens.

i)        If the information was made more generally available, then more people could be involved in the discussion.

a.     Unfortunately, the timescale does not allow this.

j)        Why weren’t leaflets sent to all households?

a.     It was featured in every edition of Your Ward.

k)      Will parish councils be involved in the process?

a.     Yes.


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