Page last updated at 22:26 GMT, Monday, 17 January 2011

Localism Bill

The government's flagship Localism Bill will result in the "demolition" of communities, Labour former secretary of state for communities and local government Hazel Blears has said.

As MPs debated the legislation at second reading on 17 January 2011, Ms Blears told the Commons she believed there was a "schism" between members of the government who "genuinely believed in this agenda and want to make the most of the skills and talents of local people" and those coalition MPs who saw the bill as a "convenient step" to shrinking the state and slashing costs.

She asked Mr Pickles to give a "cast iron commitment" not to use the bill simply to allow private companies to run council services or buy assets from local authorities.

The bill creates new rights for communities to instigate local referendums on any issue, veto "excessive" council tax rises and bid to buy local assets like libraries, pubs and shops.

It will also introduce a power to create directly-elected mayors in 12 cities.

Ms Blears added: "I genuinely believe what we have here is the worst of all worlds; raising people's expectations and then dashing them in a way which I think is pretty appalling.

"There are many, many reasons why we can't support the bill. The principle is right but the way in which this government propose to exercise it is utterly wrong. This is not community empowerment, this is community demolition."

Winding up the debate, decentralisation minister Greg Clark said: "This bill puts our politics on a different course. It brings an end to the history of using power to take more power.

"It gives power to councils, power to communities, power to voluntary groups, power to the people."

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