Referendums proposed under the Localism Bill should be binding to stop “mad” local authorities ignoring their communities, Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith has argued.
Goldsmith told MPs during a House of Commons debate on the bill that he had tried and failed to persuade the government to ensure that the result of a local referendum would be binding.
The MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston said: “Despite being wildly enthusiastic about the introduction of referendums, I was critical of this component of the bill because I did not think it went nearly far enough.
“This aspect of the bill recognised that people want more say and more control over the decisions that affect their lives but, because the referendums that we were proposing were to be non-binding, I think the government would have failed to deliver.
Goldsmith said he had been reassured that “only a mad local authority would ever go against the wishes of its electorate”.
But he cited the case of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk where, in a referendum with a 61% turnout, 92% of those voting rejected plans for an incinerator.
Goldsmith added: “That was an overwhelming result, and honourable members can probably guess the outcome: the result was ignored by the local authority.”