Councils urge local devolution
The age of expensive centralised government trying to second-guess the needs of local communities is over, local government bodies from the four countries of the UK have said.
Councils throughout the UK have called on whoever forms the next UK government to devolve powers beyond Westminster, Holyrood, Cardiff Bay and Stormont to empower local communities through their councils.
The joint statement is signed by David Sparks, chair of the Local Government Association; Aaron Shotton, deputy leader of the Welsh Local Government Association; David O'Neill, president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla); and Dermot Curran, president of the Northern Ireland Local Government Association.
The leaders call on whoever forms the next government to enshrine the European Charter of Local Self-Government, which sets out the principles of local democracy and was signed by the United Kingdom in 1997, in the UK's new constitutional settlement.
Any future Constitutional Convention on the future of the governance of the United Kingdom should guarantee seats around the table for the leaders of the four associations to ensure that the voices of local communities are heard, the leaders said.
They said: "Strong local democracy and empowered communities will be a force for good.
"As we approach the election of a new Parliament, the time for talking has ended. The new government will be given the responsibility of defining a new settlement for the communities of the United Kingdom. We have the opportunity to shape history and strengthen our nation.
"We made representations to William Hague's Cabinet Committee in London and the Smith Commission in Edinburgh. Both reports called for a major shift in power and a revival of local decision-making.
"National parties and local communities in every part of our nation have also signalled a desire for change.
"We are very clear that it is time to move away from an expensive, centralised approach which means that governments in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh or London try to second guess what is best for localities.
"Any settlement which does not extend beyond Westminster, Holyrood, Cardiff Bay and Stormont will not be sustainable."