What is Localism?
The Localism Act was passed in 2011 to change how local government operates and how public services are delivered. It sets out the legal framework for changes to governance, planning, housing and finance. The Government believes its approach will:
- free up local government so it can be responsive to local needs
- engage and empower local people
- make the planning system more democratic and more effective
- ensure that decisions about housing are taken locally
Wealden’s approach to Localism
The Council’s role is to facilitate localism across the District and provide supportive leadership. Councillors act as ambassadors, encouraging relevant partners to come together to create local solutions to local issues.
When considering the draft legislation, the Council noted that the localist approach is not new in Wealden. We have a long-standing relationship with the town and parish councils in the District and, well before the legislation, many parishes were delivering a range of services traditionally provided by larger councils. Grounds maintenance, parks and cemeteries are a few examples. Also, our annual Parish Conference and parish planning panels have been in existence for many years.
The Localism Act gives us all the opportunity to take a fresh look at everything we do and assess the appetite in Wealden’s communities for new ways of working, involving and engaging partners to achieve better outcomes for everyone in the district.
The Council’s ‘2015 and Beyond’ review is challenging and testing the fundamental assumptions and beliefs that have guided its activity in the past. Five work streams within the review cover the areas of governance, finance, partnerships, services and organisational development.
The role of Town and Parish Councils
The 42 town and parish councils in the district are the key building blocks of Wealden’s approach to localism. Wealden is keen to see decision-making take place at the lowest practicable local level and aims to support towns and parishes in this.
Many district councillors are also town or parish councillors. This gives them an unparalleled opportunity to understand issues on the ground, at the same time recognising them within the wider context of the district.
The role of the Wealden District Association of Local Councils (WDALC)
WDALC is a not-for-profit, collective body that works for the mutual benefit of all Town and Parish Councils in the Wealden District. It encourages towns and parishes to work together on matters of common interest, and aims to advance the interests of its member councils. It is a sub group of the Sussex Association of Local Councils (external link).
Wealden District Council and WDALC recognise that by close co-operation both organisations can contribute more effectively to the overall wellbeing of communities in Wealden.
Engaging Wealden’s communities
An important aspect of localism is about encouraging people to work together and get involved with things that affect them locally. There are several tools available as a result of the Localism Act: