Wednesday, 05 January 2011 07:35

Councillors 'free' to back local issues

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Councillors 'free' to back local issues

COUNCILLORS are to be freed from restrictions preventing them from championing local issues, says the government.

Local government minister Grant Shapps said he wanted 2011 to be the year of "councillor power".

Over the coming weeks, he intends to encourage a new generation of community champions to put their names on the ballot paper for May's local elections.

The government's Localism Bill would help place councillors centre stage in their communities with more clout than ever before, said Mr Shapps.

This would include freeing councillors from restrictions that prevented them from championing local issues.

Mr Shapps has written to every council in England to outline how the new Localism Bill will clarify these so-called "predetermination" rules.

It was wrong that councillors felt they were prevented from performing the role they were elected to do because they had declared a particular view on an issue.

Yet predetermination rules did just that, said Mr Shapps.

"It is ridiculous that a community can vote for someone standing on a particular issue, only for that person to be barred from talking about it once in office.

"Councillors must be given the freedom to properly represent the views of their constituents."

The Localism Bill would clarify predetermination rules, Mr Shapps said.

In doing so, it would end uncertainty that had left councillors confused and concerned about whether voicing opinions on issues of local importance.

"We are placing councillors centre stage in their communities with more clout than ever before to get things done for the people they serve.

Mr Shapps said 2011 would truly be the year of councillor power.

"That's why I want to encourage a new generation of community champions to put their names on the ballot paper for May's local elections."

Predetermination rules had led some council officers to advise councillors against discussing matters of local importance, the government claims.

Members of South Cambridgeshire District Council had been told they could not comment on a proposed new park and ride scheme if they owned a car, it said.

They had also been warned about discussing a proposed new site for a mobile phone mast if they themselves used a mobile phone.

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