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The AJ's bloggers track the latest developments in the plan to hand power to the people

English councils' local development plan status coverage

NPPF fallout: 52% of councils do not have local plans

More than half of English councils have failed to draw up local plans in time for the NPPF’s introduction later this month

Localism: where did it all go wrong?

It promised to give local authorities the power to write their own development plans, but now experts say it is stifling growth and confusing an already murky planning process, reports Merlin Fulcher


Reaction: Localism Bill becomes Localism Act

The Localism Bill was given Royal Assent yesterday, opening the way for a ‘profound’ overhaul of the English planning system

Richard Rogers

Rogers hits out against ‘fundamentally flawed’ planning reform

Richard Rogers has hit out against the government’s proposed overhaul of the planning system claiming it could merge cities and ‘scar the countryside for generations’

RIBA president Angela Brady

RIBA urges architects to ‘Get local’

The RIBA has urged architects to seize the localism agenda and help communities make the most of their new planning powers


NPPF consultation lands 13,700 responses

The government has given MPs extra time to contribute to the debate over its controversial planning reforms following huge interest in the policy

Geoff Armstrong , partner at town planning practice DPP

Localism: identifying the people that matter is vital

The Localism agenda means more work and more proactivity, so getting the ‘key influencers’ on side early is critical, says Geoff Armstrong

Working Together. Delivering Growth Through Localism

The tale of two Localism Guides

Everybody wants to know what the impact of the government’s localism agenda will really be. Here are two, very different, explanatory guides

Craig Casci of Grid Architects

The answer to the housing crisis: unblocking planning

Craig Casci of Grid Architects argues that housing problems are a symptom of the broken planning system, not the lack of land or delivery

Planning inspectors told to take into account draft NPPF

The planning inspectorate has issued guidance to its officers to start viewing the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) as a ‘material consideration’ in their decisions

George Osborne

Osborne and Pickles: Do not underestimate government commitment to planning reform

Chancellor George Osborne and communities secretary Eric Pickles have defended the governments’ proposed planning reforms amid fierce opposition from conservation groups

Planning minister Greg Clark

Planning minister gives 36 more councils extra planning powers

The fourth wave of councils to be given new neighbourhood planning powers has been named by the Department for Communities and Local Government

  • News story: Star-studded concert announced to celebrate anniversary of VE Day


    The concert, taking place at London’s Horse Guards Parade on Saturday 9 May, will be a focal point of the national celebrations for the 70th anniversary of VE Day. This one-off event will be broadcast that night on BBC One TV and on Radio 2.

    Hosted by Chris Evans, this star-studded concert will include performances influenced by the era from actor Adrian Lester, comedian and presenter Alexander Armstrong, Britain’s favourite tenor Alfie Boe, actor Bernard Cribbins, boyband Blue, Britain’s Got Talent winners dance troupe Diversity, musical theatre’s leading lady Elaine Paige, hotly tipped jazz vocalist Gregory Porter, Dads Army’s Ian Lavender, R&B singer Jamelia, stage, screen and TV star Jane Horrocks, UK’s biggest mezzo soprano Katherine Jenkins, pop starlet Pixie Lott, one of the best voices to come out of the X Factor singer Rebecca Ferguson, legendary rock band Status Quo and four couples from top entertainment show Strictly Come Dancing.

    Tickets for VE Day 70: A Party To Remember are now on sale.

    To book tickets log on to Live Nation and Ticketmaster.

  • Press release: Nation gets behind VE Day 70 as the Palace confirms the Queen’s attendance


    Today, Buckingham Palace has announced that Her Majesty The Queen and members of the Royal Family will attend a service of thanksgiving to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE Day) on 10 May 2015. People across the UK are also marking this milestone by attending or organising their own events as the nation comes together to celebrate.

    The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, accompanied by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall and other members of the Royal Family, will attend a Service of Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey to mark the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe.

    The announcement from the Palace comes as more details of how people are celebrating VE Day 70 are revealed. Communities are being encouraged to organise or take part in celebrations that will celebrate the extraordinary generation who played such an important role in defending our country.

    There are many ways people can get involved, from attending or hosting a street party or picnic, to watching a special V-shaped beacon being lit in their community, or listening out for the bells ringing in their local cathedral or church. The public are being invited to share their plans on the newly launched VE Day 70 events map.

    Veterans of the Second World War are being encouraged to take a leading role in the national commemorations. Last week the Royal British Legion invited veterans to join the national commemorations in London and funding for travel has been made available for veterans and their carers.

    Barbara Weatherill, 89, from Selby, North Yorkshire, was serving in Sunderland in the Army in 1945.

    I’d heard the news about the war being over but couldn’t celebrate as I had to transport rations to another Army base.

    The journey took twice as long, as the streets were filled with people celebrating and having a great time.

    It will be fantastic to see some of that joy again in the celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary.

    How to take part

    Friday 8 May

    VE Day itself (Friday 8 May) will be a day of Remembrance. People are encouraged to get family and friends together to watch one of 100 beacons being lit across the UK. For example:

    • Blackpool’s world-famous Tower will be illuminated in red, white and blue for VE Day, using thousands of LEDs. There will also be a beacon shining from the Tower Top looking out to sea on both Friday 8 and Saturday 9 May
    • the community on Unst, the most northerly populated island in the British Isles, are planning to light their own beacon on the top of Saxavord, the highest point of the island. The location looks out to sea on one side and down over the rest of Unst, allowing the beacon’s shining light to be seen for miles

    Details of how to arrange the lighting of a beacon can be found here. To find out where the nearest beacon is, visit the web map, where all the beacon sites will be added over the coming weeks.

    Saturday 9 May

    Saturday 9 May will be a day of Celebration, with a moment of noise. Ships will be asked to sound their horns, sporting associations to mark the occasion during sporting matches with clapping or song, and cathedrals across the country, from Durham to Canterbury, will be invited to ring their bells in celebration from around 11am. For example, Llandaff Cathedral in Cardiff will participate in the national bell-ringing celebration, and on Sunday 10 May, the cathedral will hold a service of thanksgiving. The Very Rev. Gerwyn Huw Capon, Dean of Llandaff, said:

    I am delighted to be involved in the national celebrations of thanksgiving for the 70th Anniversary of the Victory in Europe.

    The cathedral will be holding a service of remembrance and thanksgiving on the afternoon of Sunday 10 May, at 3.30pm.

    The cathedral will join other cathedrals and churches throughout the kingdom in ringing a full peal of bells on Saturday 9 May.

    If you would like to know if the cathedrals or churches in your area will be taking part or if you would like to tell us you are taking part, go to our VE Day 70 events map in the coming weeks.

    Sunday 10 May

    Sunday 10 May will be a day of parties, with the public invited to set up their own street parties and picnics. Hopes are that community halls, public spaces and homes will be decked with bunting and playing music to recreate the celebrations of 70 years ago. Local Authorities are making it easier for people to host street parties across the country. For example, Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Highway Management, said:

    This is another momentous national occasion. We want Devon to be part of the celebrations and we saw during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, when more than 140 street parties were held across Devon, that these events are a great way to bring communities together.

    The notice period has been reduced to five weeks, but there isn’t much time to apply so we would ask anyone planning a street party to let us know about it as soon as possible.

    If you are interested in holding a street party please contact your Local Authority as soon as possible for guidance. If you have a match that weekend, consider joining thousands of others across the country by marking VE Day 70 with a moment of applause. In the coming weeks, further plans will be announced to mark the 70th anniversary of VJ Day, which will include a day of major events on 15 August 2015.

    To find out more about the events taking place across the country, to organise your own event or to tell us about your event, please visit our website, where you can add to our special map of all the events across the country.

    If you are a veteran and would like to take part, visit British Legion VE Day 70 or phone 0808 802 8080.

    Notes to editors

    1. The Royal British Legion was recently awarded £6 million of LIBOR funding by HM Treasury to support the work of commemorations over the next 5 years: they will use part of these funds for VE Day 70.
    2. VE Day images are available to license directly from the IWM Archive. To license images for press use, please browse the collection, take note of the reference number on the image and contact the IWM image sales team directly: telephone 020 7416 5215/5309 or email
    3. For the latest news, follow MoD on Twitter at @DefenceHQ or search #VEDay70.
    4. Information already announced on the national events taking place in London from 8 to 10 May can be found here.

    For further information, please contact:

    • commemorative beacons: Bruno Peek - 07737 262 913]
    • veteran accreditation: Royal British Legion - Becky Warren, 07824 301 072
    • local authority involvement and street parties: DCLG - Rhodri Jones, 030 3444 1143
    • cathedral bells: Department of Culture Media and Sport Press Office - 020 7211 2210 or 07699 751 153 (out of hours)

  • News story: Events map launched for Victory in Europe (VE) Day celebrations


    Our online events map, used to track events across the UK marking the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day is now live.

    A 3-day weekend of events will mark the 70th anniversary of VE Day, taking place up and down the country.

    The plans include events right across the UK, all marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War 2 in Europe. Events will range from a parade, a service of thanksgiving and a star-studded concert in central London, through to street parties and beacon lighting right across the country.

    The celebrations in London will be echoed by other events across the country to mark VE Day 70 with local authorities and communities encouraged to participate.

    People are encouraged to celebrate with members of their communities who contributed to the war effort throughout World War 2. The Royal British Legion, as the national custodian of Remembrance, will act as the government’s key partner in leading the nation in marking the commemoration, including hosting a major reception for 2,000 veterans in St James’s Park.

    Find out where your nearest event is and share the events you have planned by filling in the event map form. Find out more about how to help celebrate VE Day on GOV.UK.

  • Press release: Veterans given special invitation to VE Day 70th anniversary celebrations


    The government will join the nation in marking the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day over the weekend of 8 to 10 May 2015. A series of national commemorative events will take place in London, and community events and celebrations are being organised across Britain.

    The Second World War generation will be at the heart of the celebration, and the Royal British Legion is inviting the veterans of VE Day to take part in the national commemorations in London.

    The invitation is to all those who played an active role during the Second World War - who served in the military, the Home Guard or in any one of the reserved occupations, including medics, police and the ‘Bevin Boys’.

    To be eligible, veterans must be 85 years and over by 8 May 2015. All veterans can bring one nominated carer with them. Funding for travel will be made available for successfully accredited veterans and their carer to come to London.

  • Press release: Better bin buying would save £70 million every year, says report


    Councils can make sensible savings by joining forces to buy refuse trucks and wheelie bins, according to a new report published today (29 March 2015).

    Ministers are clear town halls no longer have the luxury of procuring waste management equipment in isolation and therefore must work together to deliver a better deal for local taxpayers. The report has found £70 million could be saved by town halls every year simply through better procurement and more standardised processes.

    It said every wheeled bin in England costs an estimated £5 more than it does in Germany, therefore a council splashing out on 50,000 branded bins could be wasting £250,000 of local taxpayer’s money.

    The report suggested potential savings of up to 10% on refuse trucks and more than a third (35%) on bins could be achieved through clearer specification and procuring in larger volumes with other councils.

    Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said:

    For too long rubbish town hall procurement policies have wasted taxpayer’s money as councils have worked in isolation when they should have been working together to deliver a better deal for local taxpayers.

    People want and deserve a comprehensive bin collection service in return for their Council Tax, which is why this government is working with town halls to increase the frequency and quality of rubbish and recycling collections.

    Instead of cutting frontline services or introducing stealth taxes such as charges for the collection of garden rubbish, councils should be making the sensible savings such as more joint working, better procurement and new technology.

    The government is also funding a project whereby a group of councils will work together to explore how they can standardise their approach to digital waste services. The project will increase transparency and give councils greater flexibility to switch suppliers more easily at lower cost.

    Further information

    See the new report.

    The councils working on the project to create through local digital standards for waste services are:

    • Adur and Worthing councils
    • Brentwood borough council
    • Bristol city council
    • Calderdale council
    • Chelmsford city council
    • Luton borough council

    A digital local waste service standard will make it easier for councils to work together on collection services, which has the potential to reduce cost and therefore potentially reduce the Council Tax liability, or redirect savings into other services.

    What the coalition government has done so far:

    • safeguarded weekly collections for 6 million households through the Weekly Collection Support Scheme as well as championing innovation and best practice; the scheme is enabling 86 projects in 81 local areas to deliver improved waste collection and recycling services for residents

    • issued the first ever Whitehall guidance on weekly bin collections, demolishing the myths that fortnightly bin collections are needed to save money or increase recycling; it shows how councils can deliver a comprehensive and frequent rubbish and recycling collection service, and deliver practical savings from common sense steps that do not harm the quality of the service that local taxpayers receive

    • through the Recycling Reward Scheme, funded 46 projects in up to 60 local authorities that will reward residents for doing the right thing and reducing, reusing and recycling more of their waste; this is in addition to funding 40 innovative reward initiatives through the Weekly Collection Support Scheme

    • stopped Audit Commission inspections which marked down councils who do not adopt fortnightly rubbish collections, and rejected Audit Commission guidance which advocated fortnightly collections

    • published a report on the opportunities available for local authorities to make significant savings through better procurement of waste management goods

    • launched the first every Community Clear Up Day on 21 March 2015 which saw hundreds of events taking place across the country to reduce the country’s litter scourge

    • produced a summary of available powers which can be used to deal with illegal and unauthorised encampments to reduce the associated incidents of fly-tipping

    • funded Clean Up Britain to reduce litter in Plymouth city centre and create a replicable model for a successful campaign between a local sports team, local agencies and local businesses to tackle littering

    • through the Localism Act, revoked the 2008 legislation that allowed for the imposition of new bin ‘pay as you throw’ taxes

    • removed powers of entry and snooping powers from bin inspectors and scrapped guidance telling councils to rifle through families’ bins.

    • changing building regulations to tackle ‘bin blight’ - the ugly clutter of unsightly bins, which ruin the look of neighbourhoods, and families’ homes and gardens

    • changing the law through the Deregulation Act to scrap unfair bin fines – people will no longer be able to be fined for accidentally putting their rubbish out early or putting the wrong item in the wrong bin

    • changing the law to prevent councils introducing ‘backdoor charges’ for residents to use their local tip to dispose of household waste; these charges will inconvenience residents; make recycling harder; and increase fly-tipping and backyard burning

    Office address and general enquiries

    2 Marsham Street

    SW1P 4DF

    Media enquiries

  • Press release: 100 councils set to freeze Council Tax as authorities sit on £30 billion


    Updated: Updated with latest surplus figures.

    Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles today (10 February 2015) welcomed the news that over 100 local authorities are set to freeze or lower their Council Tax this year.

    New figures showed that 114 town halls and police authorities will take up the offer of the government’s freeze grant, with 8 set to reduce bills for taxpayers.

    And the news came as a government analysis showed councils’ have at least a further £30 billion available to them in reserves and uncollected income.

    Council reserves stood at £21.4 billion at the end of the last financial year – up from £14.3 billion in 2010 to 2011 – an increase of 50% in just 4 years.

    During the same period, town halls failed to collect some £2.5 billion of Council Tax and arrears and lost £2.1 billion to fraud. They also have £220 billion worth of assets on their books, of which £2.4 billion is earmarked as ‘surplus to requirements’.

    Speaking ahead of a vote by MPs on the Local Government Finance Settlement for 2015 to 2016, the Secretary of State said the figures showed that it was still possible to provide good frontline services and keep Council Tax down.

    Eric Pickles said:

    It’s great news that so many local authorities have already promised to keep bills down for taxpayers and take up our support for freezing or reducing Council Tax.

    Councils account for a quarter of public spending and every bit of the public sector must do its bit to pay off the deficit. But there are more than enough sensible savings to be made before hardworking families should have to foot any more of the bill.

    Reserves have rocketed up in the past few years and councils could be making better use of assets to keep taxes down and protect frontline services, while at the same time doing more to stop the billions they are losing to fraud and collecting more Council Tax arrears.

    Further information

    The government has provided potential savings worth up to £1,075 for the average band D bill payer with 5 successive years of Council Tax freezes, keeping Council Tax bills down by 11% in real terms since 2010.

    Public satisfaction with local authority services has increased – 6 out of 10 people think services are the same or better than 5 years ago.

    Spending power reductions for local authorities this year average 1.7%.

    Office address and general enquiries

    2 Marsham Street

    SW1P 4DF

    Media enquiries

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