The Big Society Marches On
There are more changes afoot in the way local authorities run local services, including licensing. Following on from the Police Reform & Social Responsibility Bill, due on the statute books early next year, the government has this month published a White Paper called “Open Public Services”.
The White Paper sets out a framework giving parish, town and community councils power and control over the running of community services. These could include parks, museums, libraries, but also, and potentially worryingly for the leisure sector, the “licensing of certain premises other than for the provision of alcohol”. However, contrary to some recent newspaper reports, there is no proposal to hand over liquor licensing (although the measures in the PR&SR Bill go a long way to increasing local clout in this respect).
The White Paper develops the government’s aim to decentralise power and increase local accountability. David Cameron said that it will give local people “more freedom, more choice, more local control in schools, health and other services”. Councils will be given new revenue raising powers and greater budgetary control.
Local councils acknowledge that drawing on local knowledge and experience can go a long way to improving public services, but careful thought needs to be given to the method and pace of change. Ongoing local government spending cuts and job losses, accountability of elected local administrators and the sheer mechanics of transferring powers from central to local control could all have an impact on the success of the proposals.
The consultation process has already started and will run over the summer holidays until September.