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Communities and Local Government committee warns ministers to rein in “interventionist urges”

A committee of MPs has warned ministers to rein in their “interventionist urges” if the Government’s localism agenda is to remain credible.

A report into the Government’s localism agenda published by the House of Commons communities and local government committee warned: “Central government cannot have it both ways—on the one hand giving local authorities the freedom to make their own choices, and on the other maintaining that only one of those choices is the ‘sensible’ one.”

In evidence sessions, particular criticism was raised over communities secretary Eric Pickles’ vocal support for weekly waste collections, despite his commitment to localism.

Lambeth Council leader Steve Reed said: “I think it makes no sense to say you want localism, and then for the Secretary of State for Communities to say you must stick with the weekly waste collection, for instance. What if we want to go to community budgeting, and a particular community would rather have fortnightly waste collection in order to spend some of that money on some other service that is more important to them? That might be youth services; it might be filling in potholes because the roads are substandard. Why is the Secretary of State telling that community they can’t do it, if they want to do it?”

The report commented that the Government has to make a choice between local authorities exercising local discretion or prescribing courses of action from the centre.

It described Government reaction to local decisions with which it disagrees as “the litmus test for localism” and warned that the concept of ‘guided localism’ is an “unhappy compromise which is neither helpful to local authorities nor as radical as the Government seems content to believe”.

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