By Claire West
An historic bill to return power to councils and communities reversing decades of increasing central government control was given new backing.
The Localism Bill will mark a revolution in the way the country works by putting power back into the hands of the people through a radical package of reforms and new freedoms.
A wide range of organisations, from civic and community groups and business leaders to housing and planning professionals and local authorities, have thrown their weight behind the Bill as it starts its second reading in Parliament on Wednesday.
To make sure the general public and community groups can fully understand the effects of the Bill, a plain English guide has also been published.
The guide seeks to translate complex legal language used in the 207 clause Bill in a transparent and reader friendly way, so anyone can understand how the Bill will devolve greater power and freedoms to councils and neighbourhoods, establish powerful new rights for communities, revolutionise the planning system, and give communities control over housing decisions.
Local Government and Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said:
"The Localism Bill is one of the most radical pieces of legislation to be debated in this chamber for decades. It is a triumph for democracy over bureaucracy.
"It will fundamentally shake up the balance of power in this country. It represents everything this Government stands for and is the cornerstone for everything we want to do. It will revitalise local democracy and put power back where it belongs - in the hands of the people.
"For too long, Government has believed that Whitehall was the centre of the universe. We genuinely believe in local democracy, in local communities, and in local solutions.
"This Bill will give councils the power and the authority they need to make sensible decisions for the area - a shot in the arm for local democracy - and it will give people new rights, new powers, new opportunities to act on the issues that matter to them.
"By pushing power out, getting Government out of the way, letting people run their own affairs; we can build a stronger, fairer Britain."
Decentralisation Minster Greg Clark added:
"This Bill represents nothing less than a reshaping of the constitutional settlement - a new page in the relationship between the people and government. It is based on belief in the ingenuity of local leaders, pride in the strength of local democracy and respect for people's common sense. It will give free rein to the ambitions and commitment of all the people who want to play their part in making their neighbourhood a better place to live."
Tony Burton, Director of Civic Voice said:
"The fundamental 'power shift' to local communities intended by the Localism Bill will be applauded by civic societies and other community groups whose skills, knowledge and expertise have been undervalued for too long. With the right safeguards and support Civic Voice relishes the opportunities being provided for communities to take the lead in planning and shaping the future of the places where we all live."
Liz Peace, Chief Executive of the British Property Federation added:
"There has been a lot of hysterical comment on the impact of the localism agenda on the property industry. The Bill has gone some way to countering this and whilst there is still much that remains to be resolved we are re-assured by the emphasis that the Government is now placing on growth and the way in which localism is to be used as the vehicle for encouraging communities to opt, not for nimbyism, but for the sustainable development of both the homes and commercial property that our economy so desperately needs."
Sarah Webb, Chief Executive of Chartered Institute of Housing said:
"The Localism Bill will bring in some major changes for the housing sector and its tenants. The extra flexibility being offered around approaches to housing and planning within local communities is timely recognition of the expertise and professionalism in the housing sector. Aspects of the Bill will help improve housing professionals' capacity to develop tailored and effective local solutions to challenging housing problems, and we look forward to working with Parliamentarians to finesse the Bill at and beyond its second reading."
Cllr Michael Chater, chairman of the National Association of Local Councils said:
"We welcome the positive ambitions of the Localism Bill to drive power and decision making down to communities. Local (community, neighbourhood, parish and town community) councils will be greatly encouraged by their enhanced recognition and the opportunities to serve local people through greater influence in planning, housing, social and economic regeneration and community well being."