Page last updated at 21:31 GMT, Monday, 10 October 2011 22:31 UK

Local referendum plans dropped

Plans that would have allowed people to trigger referendums on local issues have been dropped after they were opposed at a fifth day of report stage for the Localism Bill in the House of Lords on 10 October 2011.

The bill had originally included proposals that would have enabled small numbers of voters to petition a council for a referendum on any matter of local importance, although the outcome would not be binding on it.

Liberal Democrat peer and Pendle borough councillor Lord Greaves objected that such referendums would be "very expensive in relation to their value" and "open to abuse by extreme groups".

Communities and local government minister Baroness Hanham, withdrawing the proposals, conceded that there was already "pretty good coverage for people to have their voice heard".

Lord Beecham, speaking for the opposition, welcomed the decision on the grounds that the bill's earlier plans would have paved the way for plebiscites on "any subject under the sun".

However, the bill's provisions for referendums to be held on issues such as excessive council tax increases and neighbourhood planning remained intact.

The bill's overall aim is to devolve power away from central government to local councils and neighbourhoods.

The government says local communities will be given more control over housing and planning decisions, and the right to buy pubs, shops and libraries when they are put up for sale.

There are also provisions for directly elected mayors in England's largest cities, but plans to appoint "shadow mayors" in these cities have been axed.

The government says the bill will end the era of big government but Labour says it is a "sham", claiming it hands more than 100 new powers to central government.


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