What are local councils and what do they do?
Local (parish, town, neighbourhood, village, community or city) councils are the first tier of local government in England. There are around 9,000 local councils in England made up of nearly 80,000 local councillors. They deliver a range of services at a community level and their role is to represent the local community, provide services to meet local needs and improve quality of life and community wellbeing.
NALC has long supported the need for a fundamental shift of power to local people and supports the establishment of local councils in all areas – urban and rural – so that people can benefit from first tier representation and opportunities for service delivery.
There are 200 more local councils in England now than just over ten years ago, with communities now taking more control over their decisions and services through the establishment of new local councils.
NALC Bursary scheme?
NALC offers a bursary scheme for London campaign groups that want to create a new local council in their area. Campaign groups can apply for funds to cover reasonable costs incurred for their meetings. The types of activity that can be funded are venue hire and refreshments. See the Resources page for more details.
Why create a new local council?
New Regional Local Councils
The 200 new local councils created since 1997 in England have all been outside London. There has been significant interest since then – for a variety of reasons – in how, where and why to create them. NALC does recognise that creating a new local council is one method of empowering grassroots communities. However, it firmly advocates that creating a new local council is easily the most democratic and therefore the most accountable way of doing so.
Local communities and their associated campaign groups should consider creating a new local council for this reason and also because local councils can raise a precept (as part of the principal local authority’s council tax base) – to deliver often much-needed local services. The fact that local councils are democratic, statutory bodies that are able to deliver very local government and services has been a reason why there has been so much interest nationally in the creation of more of these types of council.
In January 2011, NALC and the Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) published a guidance note and eight case studies, researched and produced by Brian Wilson and Associates, on the creation of new local councils. This research charted the experiences of various new local councils created outside London – the reasons why they were created, how they came into being, and the lessons learnt from these processes. See the Resources page for more details.
New London Local Councils
The Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 finally allowed new local councils to be created in London. This was because until then the London Government Act of 1963 had prevented the creation of new local councils in the capital. The main reason the Government in 2007 wanted to repeal the 1963 act was because it did not see any good reason why local councils could be created in urban areas (such as Manchester, Leeds, Milton Keynes and Birmingham) – but not in London.
Since the passage of the 2007 Act, there has been a huge interest in the creation of new local councils in London. This has been as much about communities and London Borough Councils (as well as the Greater London Authority) finding out about the powers and duties, as well as the general background of local councils. Much of this work has been performed by NALC because London does not have a county association.
There have been campaigns (again for a huge variety of reasons) established in five or so areas of the capital so far to create new local councils: Queen’s Park, London Fields, Wapping, Beckenham and Surbiton are the areas that have, to date, begun campaigns to create a new local council, and the list is growing.
Click here to read the Create a Council case study from Queens Park on the ongoing work there to create a new loal council.