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Press Release: 24.02.09

24th February 2009

New Tory policy could help residents in parking row.

Local residents could find it easier to instigate local referenda under a new Conservative blueprint for local democracy. Such a policy would help residents in Sittingbourne in their campaign to have the increase in street car parking charges reversed.

The new proposals would also make it easier for council taxpayers to find out how their money is spent by Swale Borough Council.

The proposals to revive local democracy were recently unveiled by David Cameron in a major policy document, and have been endorsed this week by local Tory Parliamentary Candidate, Gordon Henderson. The new policies include:

1. Making greater use of direct democracy, including allowing Swale residents to veto high council tax rises, or instigate a council-wide referendum on local issues if 5% of local residents give their backing.

2. Requiring Swale Borough Council to publish detailed information online about its spending – including the pay and perks of senior staff; and issuing new guidance to stop ‘rewards for failure’ to sacked town hall staff (highlighted by the recent Baby P scandal).

3. Abolishing all regional planning and housing powers in the hands of regional government, returning powers and discretion back to local communities. Such a move would make it easier for Swale Borough Council to refuse applications to increase the size of major housing developments, such as the increase from 750 to 2500 homes in the Queenborough regeneration plan.

4. Creating bottom-up incentives for house building, by allowing Swale Borough Council to benefit from the increase in council tax revenues from new homes.

5. Allowing councils to establish their own local enterprise partnerships to take over the economic development functions and funding of the South East of England Development Agency (SEEDA).

6. Giving a real incentive for councils to promote local economic growth, by allowing them to keep the uplift in business rate revenues from businesses growing in size.

7. Granting Swale Borough Council a new discretionary power to give discounts on business rates, allowing them to help local shops and services, such as rural pubs or post offices, or even to create new local enterprise zones.

8. Scrapping Labour’s new Infrastructure Planning Commission, which it intends to use to force through the environmentally damaging Heathrow expansion and other controversial projects, such as the new coal fired power station on Grain.

Gordon said:
‘I am really quite excited by these plans. Over many years the power of local people over their own destiny has been dramatically reduced. These radical plans will put us back in the driving seat, and cut back interference and meddling by Whitehall bureaucrats.

‘The next election won’t just be about whether to transfer power from Labour to Conservatives. It will also be about whether to transfer power from the central state to local people.

‘Greater powers for local government must also be accompanied by more openness, greater accountability and new measures to protect the pockets of local taxpayers.”

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