POLICY ROUND-UP JULY 2010 by Urban Forum

The emergency Budget
On 22nd June the coalition government published an emergency Budget, setting out its spending plans and forecasts for the next five years.
We've produced a policy briefing on the emergency Budget and for really busy people we have also produced a bite sized Budget briefing. You can also read our analysis of the budget.
We need your urgent feedback on our emergency budget survey
It's vital that the views of the local voluntary and community sector are heard in the national debate about the budget. Tell us what you think by completing our online questionnaire; contributing to the discussion on our Facebook page, or emailing our network development officers Kate Hathway and Nick Bird at

Neighbourhoods and Local Governance

Big Society Plans unpicked
Urban Forum members have been exploring the "Big Society" programme as part of a series of members seminars to discuss the government's plans as well as the spending cuts. There has been much discussion and debate raising many questions about how the proposed and ambitious vision will be rolled out and managed over the next few years. Read about our first seminar here or even better, come to one of them! Email us to book a place.

Plans to replace Regional Development Agencies with Local Enterprise Partnerships
Plans have been drawn up by Business Secretary, Vince Cable and Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles to give councils and business an opportunity to support the creation of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) to replace Regional Development Agencies (RDAs). A White Paper this Summer will set out the details of the government's plans. This briefing note sets out the Centre for Cities' suggested six-step plan for how the new Government should establish LEPs.

£1bn Regional Growth Fund launched
Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, has formally launched the government fund, worth £1 billion, which will be available for "private bodies and public-private partnerships" from 2011 until 2013. It is expected that bidders will need to demonstrate how they will attract further investment to their proposals.

Comprehensive Area Assessments and Council League Tables to be scrapped
The current inspection regime for local areas, the Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA) - led by the Audit Commission - is to be scrapped. The CAA was introduced just last year. Communities and Local Government made it clear that a very different inspection regime will replace the CAA.

Councils to declare all spending over £500
In what's being hailed as a 'revolution in transparency', local authorities are being urged to publish details of all spending over £500. The Public Sector Transparency Board has been set up to drive an open data agenda on a council-by-council basis from January 2011.

"Pay as you throw" gets dumped
"Pay as you throw" bin taxes which were introduced by Labour are to be dumped along with proposals to allow local authorities to charge for household rubbish collections or fine those who fail to cut their waste. Eric Pickles, Communities Secretary is instead backing a recycling reward scheme which has been pioneered in Windsor and Maidenhead Council.

POWER 2010 and Unlock Democracy to join forces
The people behind the Power Inquiry and Power 2010 have decided to merge with ‘Unlock Democracy' to enable them to keep the pressure on government. POWER 2010 had intended to wind up after the General Election but having received over 100,000 votes on their ‘POWER PLEDGE' - they've decided to stick at it and work on "taking back Parliament".

Fancy creating your own neighbourhood Council?
The National Association of Local Councils (NALC) have produced a Power to the People pack to help communities establish new neighbourhood or community councils. The practical guide helps steer people through the process of setting up a more local tier of government.

Places and the Built Environment

Planning Reform
The government has stated its commitment to a ‘radical reform' of the planning system giving new powers to local councils, communities, neighbourhoods and individuals. The Coalition: Our Programme for Government sets out plans to:
• Abolish Regional Strategies and returning decision making powers to local councils.
• Give neighbourhoods far more ability to determine what development takes place in their area, based on the principles set out in the Green Paper: Open Source Planning.
• Publish a consolidated national planning framework covering all forms of development which sets out national, economic, environmental and social priorities.

National Housing and Planning Advisory Body Scrapped
The National Housing and Planning Advice Unit (NHPAU) has been scrapped by the government with immediate effect. The government have said that savings are the main reason for the closing of the NHPAU.

Infrastructure Planning Committee to be abolished
The Infrastructure Planning Committee is to be abolished and replaced with the Infrastructure Planning Unit. The new body will continue a similar role to its predecessor of ‘fast-tracking of major infrastructure projects'. National Policy Statements (NPS) - the government's infrastructure blueprints - will also be subject to Parliamentary approval as part of the coalition's agreement.

Go Carbon Neutral
Knowle West, Bristol and Cranberry Lane in Newham, London (two social housing estates) both took part in a project to go ‘carbon neutral'. The programme was developed by the Centre for Innovation in Voluntary Action (CIVA) in 2008. The report provides an insight into how people view the issue of global warming and what they feel able to do in response to it. The summary report can be downloaded here.
The Main Report, including the University of Reading Evaluation

Diversity, Equalities and Cohesion

Frank Field to head up Government Review of Poverty and Life
Former Labour Minister, Frank Field MP, will chair an independent review into UK poverty for the new government. The aim of the review, for the Department for Work and Pensions, is to look at how government can improve the lives of the most vulnerable in our society and to explore how poverty for the least advantaged could be reduced.

Review of fair pay in the public sector
Economist and Author, Will Hutton, is to lead a review on how to limit the pay-gap in the public sector and ultimately ensure that no public sector manager can earn more than twenty times the lowest paid person in the organisation.

Hints on reform of current Criminal Justice System
In a speech to the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, Justice Secretary, Ken Clark questioned the effectiveness of prison in a departure from the previous government's criminal justice policy. He raised grave concerns around the "Victorian bang ‘em up culture of the last 20 years" stating that this sort of system actually makes some criminals worse without protecting the public.

Impact Assessment

Substantial Impact being made by ‘Below the Radar' organisations
A substantial body of third sector activity operates at a micro-scale but there is very little research to show for this activity (known as ‘Below the radar') according to recent research published by the Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC). This research theme explores the role, function, impact and experiences of small community action groups or organisations.

Social Enterprises need more support to make ‘Big Society' happen
A looming ‘funding-cliff' will prevent social enterprises from helping to deliver public services says the Institute for Public Policy Research North. Whilst public sector contacts are the route to sustainability for many social enterprises, with March 2011 fast approaching and delays in sorting out contracting - many may hit the wall before they have the opportunity. More in Growing Big Society.

Other News

Credit and debt in low income families report
The experiences of low income families have been tracked over a twelve month period and published in a Joseph Rowntree Foundation report. The research looks at different types of debt, what causes them, and how the families coped with them.

Expert Panel set up on Community Development
The Community Development Foundation has set up an independent ‘expert panel' about what the role of community development is in delivering the localism' agenda. CDF is keen to involve as many voices as possible so let them know your ideas and comments. The deadline for responses is 30th July 2010.

Select Committee Chairs Announced
Chairs of Parliamentary Select Committees have been elected by MPs for the first time, as opposed to previously being appointed by Party Whips. A full list and overview of the Committees, who are responsible for scrutinising the government over the next five years, can be found here.


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