Ministers ditch ‘people power’ clause

Author: Allister Hayman, LGC   |  

Ministers have ditched a key proposal in the Localism Bill that would have enabled local people to trigger non-binding referendums on any issue.

Speaking in the House of Lords earlier this month, junior communities minister Baroness Hanham conceded that there was ?barely a friendly voice? for provisions contained within the Localism Bill to hand local people the power to ?instigate referendums on any issue?.

Under the provision, local people could require their council to put local issues to a referendum through a local petition. The measure was intended to ?put real power in the hands of real people? and would have allowed just 5% of voters in an electoral ward to trigger a non-binding local referendum on any subject.

But speaking during the bill’s report stage, Baroness Hanham said the government had ?listened to the concerns and anxieties that were raised? about the expense? and decided ?local referendums do not need to have a place within this Bill?.

She said the government would accept amendments tabled by Liberal Democrat peers Lord Greaves and Lord Tope to remove the measure from the bill.

However, provisions to enable referendums over council tax and neighbourhood plans would remain in place, she said.

The move came after objections from all three main parties to the provision, with concerns raised over the expense and the potential for abuse by small groups.

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