Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Community Call for Action

This morning as part of the Neighborhood Governance Review, I attended a meeting with Councillors Henry Nelless and Peter Southgate at the IdEA(Improvement and Development Agency)to discuss the new power of Community Call for Action(CCfA) which is contained within the Local Government Bill that is going through Parliament at the moment. The new power is to be implemented from April 2008 nationwide and is currently being piloted by Kirkless Council in West Yorkshire, Merton may also be involved in a pilot scheme though has yet to be decided. In terms of this power, two different types of community call for action exist, one for crime and disorder issues with the other one being for wider local government issues/community well being.

In terms of community call for action this builds on the proposals made in the Police and Justice Act 2006 for a mechanism, which applies more generally to ‘local government matters’. Below is a brief summary of the proposals.

1. The white paper places more of an emphasis on the role of the councillor, rather than on the rights of the public in triggering the mechanism. There is also no duty in the Local Government Bill for the councillor to respond to individuals who raise an issue. The White Paper states that “councillors will, from their correspondence and knowledge of their area and its people, identify issues which are of significant concern to the communities they represent”. Additionally, councillors will be expected to ensure that those who are more vulnerable and least likely to speak out have their views and needs represented.

2. In practice, we think this is likely to mean that the Home Office mechanism will deal with individual problems of residents, whilst the CLG version will deal with issues of more general community well-being (although this is not necessarily the intention of CLG).

3. The white paper goes further than the Police and Justice Act in proposing powers for councillors to resolve problems themselves. It suggests that local authorities consider what powers and budgets could be devolved directly to councillors in order to help them deal with minor problems.

4. While councillors will be expected to play a similar role in ‘filtering out’ frivolous or vexatious complaints, the White paper goes further in proposing the introduction of legislative safeguards to ensure that councils and scrutiny committees do not waste too much time on these types of complaints. They do not go into much detail at this stage however.

5. The Home Office proposals do not give much scope for local flexibility procedurally. The White paper however suggests allowing for scrutiny committees to ‘set their own rules in light of local circumstances’, which could include for example limiting the number of CCfAs brought before the Scrutiny Committee.

6. Unlike the Home Office proposals, there do not appear to be any limitations as to whether County councillors can initiate a CCfA or not (the Home Office proposals relate only to district councillors in two-tier areas). This is likely to make the mechanism more accessible to members of the public.

7. Unlike the Home Office CCA, there is no right of appeal to the Executive


Clearly when implemented they will have great implications for local government in terms of officer support and scrutiny where many of the CCfA will be heard. I believe that the proposals will greatly assist councillors in raising issues of concern within their local community. From my five years as a councillor, I know personally of issues within my ward where it is likely that I would've brought a CCfA where I felt this issue needed wider debate. While guidance is yet to be published about how they are to operate, nonetheless it is a proposal that I welcome and believe it will empower councillors in undertaking their roles.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well done, Martin, for widely publicising this important issue.

4:38 pm  
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7:39 pm  

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