Local Works is an Unlock Democracy project to encourage communities to make the most of the Sustainable Communities Act. In an email to supporters they announced a campaign to get local people to encourage their council to opt-in to the act.
In June, we reversed the government’s plans to weaken the Sustainable Communities Act and got them to make regulations that strengthen it.
The Sustainable Communities Act will only help you and your community IF your council now chooses to opt in and use it. But it is not compulsory for them to do so.
There have already been some great results from the Act: For example people in Sheffield have used the Act to protect local Post Offices from closure and increase their usage.
Other results from the Act have been for rate relief to help small businesses and promote local jobs; allowing rates collected from renewable energy schemes to be reinvested into the local area and ending the practice of excessive building by developers in residential gardens.
Our communities continue to decline at an alarming rate – one in six shops lies empty. The results above show we can use the Act not only to stop that decline, but to actually reverse it.
The Act is the only mechanism that can make government take action to help our communities. It has seeded the potential for real change. However, that potential will only be realised if our councils get involved too. So I am asking for your help.
When your council gets involved, you and your community can then put your own ideas forward for new government action to reverse community decline and create truly sustainable communities.
Your council, if it uses the Act, has a duty under it to not merely consult local people but to try to reach agreement with them on what proposals for action will be submitted to central government.
Last week the Coalition Government published its response to the consultation on its plans for implementing Individual Voter Registration. Members of the public and democracy groups had raised concerned about certain provisions in the proposals, which included removing the current legal requirement for people to register by introducing an opt-out. The Government have made the following changes to their proposals:
- The Coalition Government will now hold a full household canvas in spring 2014, deferring the planned canvass from autumn 2013.
- The new right to “opt out” of registration will not be introduced in its originally proposed form; People who wish to opt-out may be required to fill out a separate form or the opt-out may be dropped altogether.
- The government plans to consult more widely on whether or not to make non-registration an offence.
Unlock Democracy have been a key part of the campaign to improve the proposals and they had this to say:
This is an entirely welcome step forward and we are pleased the government has listened to the concerns it received about its original proposals. More than 750 responded to our push to get people to respond directly to the consultation, while over 2,100 people used our website to write to their MP about the issue.
Unlock Democracy has always supported the introduction of individual elector registration itself as an important tool for tackling voter fraud. Our concerns with the government proposals have always been over the pace the government planned to introduce the new system and the introduction of the “opt out” which we believe would have a negative impact in terms of both voter participation and the jury system.
Read more: Government backtracks on new voter registration rules (Unlock Democracy).
Unlock Democracy has submitted a report to the Joint Committee on House of Lords reform, the full version of the report including over 5,400 pages of submissions from the general public on how the second chamber should be reformed. It is from those submissions that Unlock Democracy have produced a 29-page report summarising the proposals for Lords reform and addressing each of the arguments for and against reform.
The recommendations of the submission include:
- The second chamber should be fully elected by a system of proportional representation, preferably using the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system;
- 150 members of the second chamber should be elected every five years for ten year terms of office. Members of the second chamber should only be able to stand for two terms of office;
- There should be no places reserved for religious representatives in the second chamber;
- The second chamber should be called the Senate
Peter Facey, Director of Unlock Democracy, said in an email to members:
“This is just the beginning in what we anticipate will be a long, hard fight between reformers and the vested interests in the House of Lords. But it’s a strong start.”
Vicky Seddon, co-ordinator of Sheffield for Democracy, had this to say about the current government proposals for reform:
“The current proposal is for a Second Chamber that is 80% elected and 20% appointed, with the bishops included as appointees. ‘Sheffield for Democracy’ is campaigning for a 100% elected chamber and has written, with 64 signatures, to urge Nick Clegg to change his mind. Add your voice to ours by signing our petition.”
Sign our petition!
In Sheffield, we are pressing Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to come off the fence and support a fully elected second chamber. Please download our letter to Nick Clegg, sign it and if possible get your friends and contacts to sign it and then send it to us c/o 39B Westbourne Road Sheffield S10 2QT. Thank you.