August was dominated by new government proposals on planning, scene setting for a White Paper on recovery and reorganisation, and the school exams fiasco.
As councils face mounting challenges to our finances, governance, licensing, care and climate, the government squeeze on local authorities now extends to centralising planning policy into a framework that increases permitted development, undermines local plans, reduces the likelihood of affordable housing, and diminishes the public voice.
It’s a myth that planning is holding up development. Permissions for a million homes over the past decade have not been built, and a tax could be applied to those.
Many councils have 20-year local plans, but new building targets, insurmountably greater in some areas, will require new local plans and design codes – at a time when resources are already stretched.
“Permissions for a million homes over the past decade have not been built”
This Government refuses to accept that local is better – we know our communities best and deliver both the Government’s agenda and our local priorities. We will respond to the planning consultations and I encourage your councils to do so too.
We are also fighting mounting pressure to reorganise into big, mayoral-led unitaries, at a time when districts have proven their worth like at no time before – leading local resilience, recovery and cohesion during the pandemic.
Areas may choose to change, but unless all members and residents agree, we will be pushing back on top-down reorganisation.
We need the distractions to stop, and to focus on what we want to do: build thriving local communities in partnership with our residents.