September began with a growing number of challenges marching towards us – a forced reorganisation, planning numbers that make little sense, sweeping changes to the planning system that fail to address any current problems in the system, the ongoing fight for funding, a care crisis, climate emergency – and all at a time of a pandemic.
Now, a few weeks later, it seems the Government has realised (as our group clearly said) that now is not the time for a big-scale reorganisation that most councils don’t need, and residents don’t care about.
What we do need is the devolution of powers and money promised to our local authorities.
Turning to the Government’s commitment to its sweeping planning proposals – improvements are sought, but this goes entirely in the wrong direction, centralising planning policy away from important local voices.
“Now is not the time for a big-scale reorganisation that most councils don’t need”
Proposals to create local plans without local policies and speedy planning decisions based on computer coding would reduce public engagement, democratic accountability, and public confidence. It also works to reduce affordable housing and facilities.
It fails to address the unhelpful land-banking by developers that undermines our local plans and enables them to control the supply of housing, rather than local councils.
Amid planning consultations and making our case ahead of the Government’s Spending Review, we are ready to deal with COVID-19’s second wave.
As the Chief Medical Officer has made clear, we all have our part to play. I know, as before, our councillors will be at the forefront of protecting our communities.