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Hundreds show up for Sustainable Communities Act public meeting at Parliament

February 11, 2009 12:00 PM

Hundreds of people turned up at Parliament last night (10 Feb 2009) to hear about the new Sustainable Communities Act which recently became law due to a huge campaign effort by the Local Works coalition (www.localworks.org) of which the Liberal Democrats are a leading member.

The Act can be used by communities and councils to protect and promote local shops, services, trade, communities and the environment, to devolve powers and potentially even to trigger new legislation. However, councils must choose to use the new powers before communities can and so far only a handful have done so.

The Sustainable Communities Act's process started on 14 October when central government invited all councils to choose to use the Act's new process by submitting proposals to government for help and action.

The Act gives government a legal duty to "co-operate" and "reach agreement" with communities and councils. This is a wholly new form of governance - it is not the top down decision making we have always had.

In the words of Hazel Blears, when she launched the Act's process on 14 October, this Act is about "turning power upside down in this country", and she added that it is about "reaching agreement where you say 'I can do this and I can't do that' and then have a dialogue about the final decision to be taken together."