The 'General Power of Competence' in the Localism Act: Devolving Democracy or the End of Accountability?
The Localism Act 2011 is ostensibly, as its title suggests, the implementation of a localist political agenda. As Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government said, introducing the 2010 bill to the House of Commons it was intended to prioritise local decision making over other scales of governance. It would, he said:
"reverse the centralist creep of decades and replace it with local control. It is a triumph for democracy over bureaucracy. It will fundamentally shake up the balance of power in this country, revitalising local democracy and putting power and back where it belongs, in the hands of the people".
The rationale is, therefore, what the EU would call a 'subsidiarity principle' ‐ though the government would avoid any such Euro‐language, and calls it "power being exercised at the lowest practical level".
Author: Helen Mounfield QC
Publication date: October 15 2012