Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Promote local economic activity, services and facilities

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I've been a strong supporter of the Sustainable Communities Bill currently going through Parliament as a Private Members Bill, for some time now. I hope it becomes law and have been undertaking activities suggested by the Local Works organisation( to help bring this about. It aims to halt the decline of local shops, post offices, pubs, services, communities and jobs but I've had no success in finding support for the Bill from my MP, Bristol East's Kerry McCarthy unfortuneately.

The government have opposed the Bill too, with the Dept for Communities and Local Govt writing to a committee expressing opposition and issueing a briefing to all Labour MPs doing likewise. One government whip asked some Labour MPs to 'talk the Bill out' when it was discussed in the House of Commons. Despite this the vote went against the government's wishes and the Bill got a Second Reading, with 177 MPs across the party divide voting to ensure this (all credit to them!).

The Bill requires an action plan to be established jointly by central and local government to stop local areas becoming 'ghost towns' and to promote local economic activity, environmental protection, and wide, inclusive public participation. Central government would have to consult with local government who in turn would be required to consult local communities about such things as the best ways to spend money - according to local priorities. Under the Bill local communities would have greater rights to allocate or re-allocate money spent by central government and national agencies. Sounds like good democratic practice to me!