Commenting on the publication of the Government’s Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, Cllr Sam Chapman-Allen, Chair of the District Councils’ Network said:
“The Levelling Up Bill is mixed news for DCN councils. We want to work with the Government to deliver their commitment to level up the country and empower our local communities.
“However, we’re concerned that district councils’ local knowledge and ability to deliver on levelling up is being overlooked when it comes to delivering new County Deals. The legislation would prevent district councils being constituent members of the new-style combined authorities and appears to allow district powers to be transferred to the combined authority without their consent. We think this is unnecessary and counter-productive. District councils are well placed to help the Government deliver ambitious deals to improve outcomes for our residents. We want the opportunity to do that as equal partners in county deals and call on the Government to recognise that in the legislation.
“We’re pleased with the change of direction on planning reform. It’s right that local plans should drive development and that councils’ powers to regenerate their high streets and local places should be strengthened. Stronger compulsory powers, rental auctions for empty high street properties, and the new local infrastructure levy – to name a few – are all positive on paper. We look forward to working with the Government to make sure they deliver on their promise.
“We also welcome the principle of encouraging positive public participation in local planning. The acid test for the idea of street votes will be implementing it in a way that boosts neighbourhood involvement without the unintended consequence of stopping developments that enhance our local places and support economic development
“Increased numbers of second homes present challenges to local councils, particularly in rural and coastal communities, and exacerbate housing shortages and affordability for ordinary people. It’s excellent news that the Bill will give councils the power to increase council tax on underused second homes, allowing us to reinvest in improving local infrastructure and services.”
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