Liberal Democrat campaign success for local democracy

Following a national campaign by Liberal Democrat Councils, the Coalition Government has agreed to deal with community proposals for changes to law “expeditiously”.

In 2009 the cross-party Sustainable Community Act empowered local authorities to consult with their residents on the national laws which affect their local environment and pass these community ideas to central Government. It is a genuinely bottom-up process of legislating, with potentially revolutionary implications for local democracy.

Liberal Democrat Kingston embraced the Act’s powers and ran community panels, on-line forums and consulted with Neighbourhood committees to gather suggestions from local people about the laws which affect their area. The issues of school admissions policies, welfare standards in pet shops and the retention of local business rates were raised by Kingston residents.

However, the previous Labour Government failed to deal with the grass roots suggestions – and as of November 2010, there had not had any feedback on how and when the proposals would be dealt with.

On 15th November 2010, we wrote to the Decentralisation Minister of the Coalition Government expressing stern disappointment that Kingston’s efforts to “consult with our residents… and pass their legislative priorities up to national government” had so far been ignored.

After receipt of this letter and additional correspondence from ‘Unlock Democracy’ campaigners, it is now understood that the Government will be reaching agreement on implementing community proposals by January 2011.

Kingston Lib Dems welcome this news. We support the greater involvement of local people and communities in the laws and regulations which affect us. Implementing the Sustainable Community Act is a small but significant victory for greater local democracy.

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