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Localism

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

Eric_Pickles

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

Planning

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: More parking for new homes will end ‘vicious cycle of clogged up streets’

    2014-08-26T19:47:00+01:00

    Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles called on councils to ensure more parking spaces are provided alongside new homes to end a ‘vicious cycle’ where clogged up streets leave motorists to run a gauntlet of congestion, unfair fines and restrictions.

    The government is proposing further action is taken to rein back in arbitrary ‘maximum parking standards’, which have previously prevented and restricted house builders from providing homes with car parking spaces that families want and need.

    Where sufficient parking spaces are not provided people will resort to either tarmacking over their front garden or parking on the street. This can then result in a counter-productive increase in municipal on-street parking restrictions and fines.

    The Secretary of State was clear that new developments should be built with sufficient parking that reflects local market demand.

    Eric Pickles, said:

    Families want a home with space for children to play in the garden and somewhere to park and load the car or cars. The consequences of not building this are there for all to see: more cars left on the kerb, more cars parked in the streets, more municipal parking restrictions and more parking tickets.

    No space at home leaves no space on the road. We need to cease this vicious cycle that leaves our streets endlessly clogged up. Allowing the market to offer enough parking spaces will help take the pressure off our congested roads.

    Further information

    The department has published new planning guidance for consultation, which seeks councils support to improve the quality and quantity of parking as part of the government’s long-term economic plan.

    Ministers put an end to previous Whitehall planning policy that encouraged councils to hike car parking charges. In a new consultation, they now want to see what else can be done to ensure house builders can provide adequate on-street parking in new developments.

    These steps build on previous reforms to tackle other over-zealous parking policies including introducing grace periods and making it illegal to use CCTV ‘spy cars’ alone to enforce on-street parking and introducing reviews of yellow lines for on-street parking.

    See more details on the consultation.

    The government is not making any changes to minimum parking standards, which ensure that new housing is built with at least a basic provision of parking. However, maximum parking standards are frequently used by councils to prevent sufficient parking needed and wanted by families.

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  • News story: Stephen Williams pays tribute to the bravery of Douglas Reynolds VC

    2014-08-26T09:01:00+01:00

    Communities Minister Stephen Williams today (26 August 2014) paid tribute to the bravery of Captain Douglas Reynolds VC, as a commemorative Victoria Cross paving stone was laid in his honour in Bristol, 100 years to the day after Captain Reynolds, serving in the 37th Royal Field Artillery, led 2 teams of volunteer drivers to recapture British guns at Le Chateau in France.

    Last week saw the start of the nationwide campaign to honour those who received the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest military honour, during the First World War. Over the next 4 years on the date corresponding to when they were awarded the VC, commemorative paving stones will be laid in their place of birth or where they lived following the war. The first stones were laid on 23 August because the first Victoria Crosses were awarded on this date exactly 100 years ago.

    Speaking ahead of the ceremony at St Peter’s Church, Castle Park, where he will join representatives of the armed forces and the Royal British Legion Stephen Williams said:

    Reading the citation to Douglas Reynolds’s tremendous act of bravery, reminds us of our duty to remember all those who gave their lives fighting in the Great War.

    The stones being laid across Bristol over the coming years will provide a lasting legacy to the gallantry of the brave men of this city and will enable residents to gain a greater understanding of how local heroes played a key role in the history of the First World War.

    Unveiling of the Victoria Cross paving stone laid in honour of Captain Douglas Reynolds.

    469 stones will be laid in communities in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The programme will also see 35 VC recipients commemorated in the Republic of Ireland. 145 stones will be laid in the National Memorial Arboretum to commemorate those born overseas. The commemorative stone for Douglas Reynolds VC is the first of 8 that will be laid in Bristol each marking the anniversary of the action of VC holders either born in or with a connection to the city.

    Lord Mayor of Bristol, Alastair Watson said:

    Every one of us owes a huge debt to all those people who served and lived through the First World War and it is fitting that, as a city, we can commemorate Douglas Reynolds and the 7 other men whose individual acts of bravery were recognised with the Victoria Cross.

    The citation to Captain Douglas Reynolds VC reads:

    On 26 August 1914 at Le Cateau, France, Captain Reynolds took up two teams with volunteer drivers, to recapture two British guns and limbered up two guns under heavy artillery and infantry fire. Although the enemy was within 100 yards he managed, with the help of two drivers (Job Henry Charles Drain and Frederick Luke), to get one gun away safely. On 9 September at Pysloup, he reconnoitred at close range, discovered a battery which was holding up the advance and silenced it.

    Douglas Reynolds went on to achieve the rank of Major, but was wounded in action, and died in the Duchess of Westminster’s hospital in Le Touquet, France, on 23 February 1916.

    Major Reynolds is buried in Etaples Military Cemetery in Northern France, while his Victoria Cross is displayed at the Royal Artillery Museum in Woolwich, London.

    Victoria Cross paving stone in honour of Captain Douglas Reynolds.

    Further information

    Follow the laying of the commemorative stones on Twitter #VCpavingstones, and on Pinterest.

    See the dates of upcoming paving stone laying ceremonies.

    The decision about the site of each stone has been taken by the relevant local authority. Guidelines to local authorities encouraged them to site the stones in a location that would have had resonance with the VC recipient, such as outside a house that they lived in or near their old school. Most importantly, the stones should be part of the community and sited in a position where they will be visible to members of the public. Efforts to trace Douglas Reynolds VC’s relatives have been unsuccessful so the stone is being laid at St Peter’s Church, already a focal point for war commemorations with 2 memorial plaques for the Blitz and 1 for evacuees.

    A public competition was held to choose a design for the paving stones and this was judged by a panel of 7 experts. The competition was won by Charlie MacKeith from London whose winning design will feature on all the paving stones that will be laid in communities across the country. The circular design seeks to ‘make one pause and remember’ and uses the material, form and lettering of the family of memorials used by the War Graves Commission.

    The paving stones are made of Scoutmoor Yorkstone a hard-wearing British stone that is quarried near Ramsbottom. Each stone will include the name of the individual, the rank and regiment of the individual (at the time the VC was awarded) and the date of the action for which the VC was awarded.

    Read more about all 8 people with Bristol connections awarded the VC during the First World War.

    Bristol 2014 is co-ordinating a large programme of events to commemorate the First World War.

    Bristol and Avon Family History Society have located relatives of some of the VC holders to find out more about their lives and update relatives on the commemorative stone project. They are keen to hear from anyone related to any of the VC holders and anyone wishing to get in touch should email bristol2014@btopenworld.com.

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  • Press release: Search for the Great British High Street moves up a gear in final week

    2014-08-25T01:00:00+01:00

    High Streets Minister Penny Mordaunt today (25 August 2014) urged town and cities across Britain to get their applications in for the Great British High Street competition before it closes on 30 August 2014.

    The minister has written to all town teams and the local community to encourage them to take part in the competition, run by the Future High Street Forum, to find Britain’s best high streets. Many town teams have already entered the 7 separate categories: city centres, town centres, market towns, coastal communities, villages, parades and London.

    The minister said this national competition was a fantastic way to celebrate the nation’s greatest high streets and it was essential that all parts of the United Kingdom were represented.

    The winners will win £50,000 of prize money and dedicated support and mentoring from industry experts. This could range from one to one coaching to advice on creating business plans to attending workshops on digital marketing.

    The government is committed to high streets as part of it long-term economic plan. It is supporting local shops and businesses with a billion pound package of investment that includes targeted business rate discounts, sensible planning changes and action that reins in over-zealous parking practices.

    High Streets Minister Penny Mordaunt said:

    This competition is about celebrating the work local people do to make their high streets great places to live, work and shop.

    Our high streets are bustling again and we want to find the hidden gems the country has to offer and share their tips for success.

    So if your area hasn’t entered already then get cracking and don’t miss the chance to be named the Great British High Street.

    Further information

    Details of how to enter the competition can be found at www.thegreatbritishhighstreet.co.uk. The deadline for entries is 30 August 2014.

    Download and display a Great British High Street poster.

    Recent research by the University of Southampton shows, high streets are proving themselves increasingly resilient and able to adapt and innovate for the modern shopper by embracing new technologies like click and collect.

    Listen to a short audio of Penny Mordaunt talking on the Great British High Street competition.

    Follow Penny Mordaunt’s high street and seaside tour across the country on storify and tripline.

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  • News story: Communities ministers attend first commemorative paving stones ceremonies

    2014-08-23T09:30:00+01:00

    Communities Ministers are this weekend (23 and 24 August 2014) leading tributes to the bravery of World War One heroes at the first ceremonies to mark the laying of commemorative Victoria Cross paving stones.

    The stones will provide a lasting legacy to their gallantry in towns and cities across the United Kingdom and will enable residents to gain a greater understanding of how their area fitted into the history of the First World War.

    In August 2013, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles announced a nationwide campaign to honour those who received the Victoria Cross (VC), Britain’s highest military honour, during the First World War. As part of this, over the next 4 years on the date corresponding to when they were awarded the VC, commemorative paving stones will be laid in their place of birth or where they lived following the war.

    469 stones will be laid in communities in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The programme will also see 35 VC recipients commemorated in the Republic of Ireland. 145 stones will be laid in the National Memorial Arboretum to commemorate those born overseas.

    The first stones will be laid on 23 August because the first Victoria Crosses were awarded on this date exactly 100 years ago. The last stones will be laid in November 2018.

    On Saturday ceremonies will be taking place to honour:

    • Private Sidney Godley VC - East Grinstead, West Sussex
    • Corporal Charles Garforth VC - Brent, London
    • Lieutenant Maurice Dease VC - Dublin, Ireland
    • Corporal Charles Jarvis VC - Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire

    On Sunday ceremonies will be taking place to honour:

    • Major Ernest Alexander VC - Liverpool
    • Captain Francis Grenfell VC - Guildford, Surrey

    Speaking ahead of his attendance at the laying of the paving stone to honour Private Sidney Godley VC, Eric Pickles said:

    One hundred years ago today these brave young soldiers were rightly awarded Britain’s highest military honour for acts of exceptional courage in the cause of liberty.

    Today communities are gathering to lay the first paving stones in their honour as a fitting tribute to their bravery. We remember that these men were not born heroes. They came from towns and cities just like ours, but went on to carry out astonishing acts of valour in service of their country.

    Secretary of State speaking at launch in East Grinstead.

    Secretary of State speaking at launch in East Grinstead

    Memorial to Private Sidney Godley VC in East Grinstead high street alongside the paving stone.

    Memorial to Private Sidney Godley VC in East Grinstead high street alongside the paving stone

    Commemorative stone to Private Sidney Godley VC.

    Commemorative stone to Private Sidney Godley VC

    Royal fusiliers getting ready to honour Sidney - and the headlining photo shows the band of the Royal Logistics Corp marching in East Grinstead.

    Royal fusiliers getting ready to honour Sidney

    Communities Minister Penny Mordaunt speaking ahead of her attendance at the ceremony to honour Corporal Charles Garforth VC in Brent, London said:

    This weekend we remember the first soldiers to be awarded the Victoria Cross in the First World War for their acts of valour or self-sacrifice. And over the weeks and months to follow from Allerdale to Wolverhampton great local events will be taking place to honour and celebrate local heroes.

    I hope that these ceremonies will not only bring communities together, but will encourage people to find out more about the men who fought and died for this country and those men and women who contributed so much to the effort on the home front.

    Sergeant Johnson Beharry VC with Penny Mordaunt at ceremony at Brent.

    Sergeant Johnson Beharry VC with Penny Mordaunt at ceremony at Brent

    Communities Minister, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon speaking ahead of his visit to Dublin where he will join Heather Humphreys, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to honour Maurice Dease VC said:

    It is a tremendous honour to be able to pay tribute to the courage of Maurice Dease, the first recipient of the first Victoria Cross in the First World War.

    As his moving citation reads, his selfless acts of bravery at the Battle of Mons called for ‘no ordinary courage’.

    Today in Dublin we commemorate this supreme act of valour. Over the next 4 years we will pause and remember the sacrifice that was made throughout Ireland and the commemorative stones will ensure that there is a permanent memorial to all these bravemen.

    Further information

    See the dates of upcoming paving stone laying ceremonies on this website.

    Follow the laying of the commemorative stones on Twitter #VCpavingstones, and on Pinterest.

    The decision about the site of each stone has been taken by the relevant local authority. Guidelines to local authorities encouraged them to site the stones in a location that would have had resonance with the VC recipient, such as outside a house that they lived in or near their old school. Most importantly, the stones should be part of the community and sited in a position where they will be visible to members of the public.

    2014 marks 100 years since the start of the First World War. See details of commemorative events to mark 100 years since Britain entered the First World War.

    Captain Theodore Wright VC (15 May 1883 – 14 September 1914) was also awarded the Victoria Cross on the 23 August 1914. A paving stone will be laid in his honour on 3 September in Brighton.

    A public competition was held to choose a design for the paving stones and this was judged by a panel of 7 experts. The competition was won by Charlie MacKeith from London whose winning design will feature on all the paving stones that will be laid in communities across the country. The circular design seeks to ‘make one pause and remember’ and uses the material, form and lettering of the family of memorials used by the War Graves Commission.

    The paving stones are made of Scoutmoor Yorkstone a hard-wearing British stone that is quarried near Ramsbottom. Each stone will include the name of the individual, the rank and regiment of the individual (at the time the VC was awarded) and the date of the action for which the VC was awarded.

    All Victoria Cross recipients that were born overseas will be commemorated with a paving stone in the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office will also place commemorative plaques in countries around the world for men from overseas who received the Victoria Cross, for service in the First World War.

    Biographies

    Maurice James Dease VC (28 September 1889 – 23 August 1914)

    Maurice Dease was one of the first British officer casualties of the war and the first posthumous recipient of the Victoria Cross. Born in Ireland, he attended the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, and became a lieutenant in the 4th Battalion, The Royal Fusiliers.

    He died defending the Nimy Railway Bridge with Sidney Godley while the rest of the section retreated, on 23 August 1914, at Mons, Belgium, the first day of the first significant British encounter of the war. Maurice Dease was the first recipient of the first Victoria Cross in the First World War.

    Sidney Frank Godley VC (14 August 1889 – 29 June 1957)

    Sidney Godley was 25 years old, and a private in the 4th Battalion, The Royal Fusiliers. The citation for his VC reads: For coolness and gallantry in fighting his machine gun under a hot fire for 2 hours after he had been wounded at Mons on 23 August 1914, at Mons, Belgium. He was caught and was a prisoner of war until the Armistice. He received his VC medal from King George V in 1919. After the war he worked as a school caretaker in Tower Hamlets, London.

    Charles Alfred Jarvis VC (29 March 1881 – 19 November 1948)

    Charles Jarvis was a 33 year old Scotsman, and a lance-corporal in the 57th Field Company, Royal Engineers. Only 3 weeks into the war on 23 August 1914 at Jemappes, Belgium, Lance-Corporal Jarvis worked for 1½ hours under heavy fire, in full view of the enemy and finally succeeded in firing charges for the demolition of a bridge. He was wounded in the process.

    He was presented with his medal in 1915. He was later promoted to second corporal and corporal before being discharged from the Army in 1917. He went on to work at the Naval Dockyard at Portsmouth.

    Charles Garforth VC (23 October 1891 – 1 July 1973)

    Charles Garforth was 22 years old, and a corporal in the 15th (The King’s) Hussars. He was born in Willesden Green, London.

    On 23 August 1914 at Harmingnies, France, Corporal Garforth volunteered to cut wire under fire, which enabled his squadron to escape. On 2 September when under constant fire, he extricated a sergeant who was lying under his dead horse, and carried him to safety. The next day, when another sergeant had lost his horse in a similar way, Corporal Garforth drew off the enemy fire and enabled the sergeant to get away.

    He was taken prisoner in October 1914 and was repatriated in November 1918. He later achieved the rank of sergeant. Charles Garforth died on 1 July 1973 at Beeston, Nottingham, and was cremated at the Wilford Hill Cemetery Crematorium. His ashes were scattered in the Garden of Remembrance.

    Major General Ernest Wright Alexander VC CB CMG (2 October 1870 – 25 August 1934)

    Ernest Alexander was trained at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst and commissioned into the British Army. At the age of 43, as a major in the 119th Battery Royal Field Artillery, during the First World War, he was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry.

    On 24 August 1914, during the action of Elouges, Belgium, when the flank guard was attacked by a German corps, Alexander handled his battery against overwhelming odds with such conspicuous success that all his guns were saved notwithstanding that they had to be withdrawn by hand by himself and volunteers led by a Captain (Francis Octavus Grenfell) of the 9th Lancers. This enabled the retirement of the 5th Division to be carried out without serious loss. Subsequently, Major Alexander rescued a wounded man under heavy fire.

    Francis Octavius Grenfell, VC (4 September 1880 – 24 May 1915)

    Francis Grenfell was 33 years old, and a Captain in the 9th (Queen’s Royal) Lancers, British Army during the First World War when the following deed during the Action of Elouges took place for which he was awarded the VC.

    On 24 August 1914 at Audregnies, Belgium, Captain Grenfell rode with the regiment in a charge against a large body of unbroken German infantry. The casualties were very heavy and the captain was left as the senior officer. He was rallying part of the regiment behind a railway embankment when he was twice hit and severely wounded. In spite of his injuries, however, when asked for help in saving the guns, by Major Ernest Wright Alexander of the 119th Battery, Royal Field Artillery, he and some volunteers, under a hail of bullets, helped to manhandle and push the guns out of range of enemy fire. The citation was gazetted on 16 September 1914 and read:

    For gallantry in action against unbroken infantry at Andregnies, Belgium, on 24th August 1914, and for gallant conduct in assisting to save the guns of the 119th Battery, Royal Field Artillery, near Doubon the same day.

    He was killed in action on 24 May 1915 and is buried in the Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery, Belgium.

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  • News story: Flags of the Historic Ridings of Yorkshire fly above DCLG's new home

    2014-08-22T09:30:00+01:00

    The flags of the North and East Ridings of Yorkshire will fly in the heart of government this weekend celebrating the important role they play in the nation’s cultural heritage.

    Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles, today raised the flag of the North Riding (22 August 2014) outside his department’s new headquarters in Westminster. The East Riding flag will be hoisted on Sunday (24 August).

    England’s traditional counties date back over a thousand years of history, but many of them have been sidelined by Whitehall and municipal bureaucrats in recent decades, including the municipal restructuring by Edward Heath’s government in 1965 and 1972. By contrast, this government is championing local communities continuing to cherish and celebrate such traditional ties and community spirit.

    Unlike most counties in Great Britain, which were divided anciently into hundreds, Yorkshire was divided first into 3 ridings.

    Ministers have previously changed the law to make it easier to fly flags without a permit from the council – these new freedoms include flying the North and East Riding flags.

    North Riding flag, picture courtesy Wiki Commons media

    North Riding flag, picure courtesy Wiki commons

    Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said:

    As a proud Yorkshireman, I’m delighted to see my compatriots in the Ridings celebrating their local pride. These flags were designed by local people championing the rich history of the Ridings, which can be traced back to the Viking settlements of ninth century Britain.

    We are stronger as a society when we celebrate the ties that bind us together. I want to send a strong signal - we should fly our flags with pride. Whatever one’s class, colour or creed, let’s have pride in Britain’s local and national identities.

    Graham Stuart, MP for Beverley and Holderness, said:

    Our county system goes to the heart of our sense of identity. The East Riding of Yorkshire is an area of tremendous natural beauty, stretching from the Yorkshire Wolds through to the Holderness coast, via towns with fascinating histories such as Beverley and Bridlington.

    People who live here are proud of where they come from, and optimistic about the future. I’m delighted that the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) will be flying East Riding’s White Rose flag over Westminster this weekend to celebrate our county.

    A spokesman for the East Riding of Yorkshire Society said:

    The East Riding of Yorkshire Society are humbled to see their flag, which represents the least known of the 3 Ridings flying in London in celebration of the third East Riding Day and the cultural heritage of the East Riding. This flag is now flown with pride by East Riding folk throughout their beloved Riding.

    A spokesman for the Yorkshire Ridings Society said:

    Having established Yorkshire Day 40 years ago, the Yorkshire Ridings Society are proud to see the Ridings now celebrated in the heart of our capital city by the flying of the North Riding flag from the headquarters of the DCLG. The flying of the North Riding flag on North Riding Day is especially poignant this year following the success of the initial stages of the Tour de France when the whole world looked on in awe at the North Riding’s wondrous landscape.

    East Riding flag, picture courtesy Wiki Commons media

    East Riding flag, picure courtesy Wiki commons

    Further information

    This is part of a series of steps to champion England’s national identities. Earlier this year, the department launched a new initiative to support the ‘tapestry’ of traditional English counties being displayed on street and road signs. The government also published a new online interactive map of England’s county boundaries.

    Planning rules have been changed to allow for councils to put up boundary signs marking traditional English counties – including the likes of Cumberland, Huntingdonshire, Westmorland and Middlesex. The government has proposed changes to highways regulations to allow traditional county names to appear on boundary road signs.

    The West Riding flag was flown in March to mark West Riding Day.

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  • Press release: Councils must clarify commitment to independent free press

    2014-08-21T10:33:00+01:00

    Kris Hopkins, Local Government Minister, has asked 7 councils (15 August 2014) to ensure that publication of their newsheets will in future be in line with the publicity rules designed to protect the free press.

    The 7 councils, Enfield, Hillingdon, Lambeth, Luton, Medway, Mid Devon and North Somerset, have been asked to explain within the next 10 working days what they now plan to do.

    Letters to each of the councils also remind them that a council may be directed to comply with some or all of the rules as set out in the Publicity Code, and that where the Secretary of State considers there is a risk that in future a council will not be complying with those rules, he will be minded, in accordance with law, to issue a written notice of a proposed direction. Any council that does not follow such a direction could end up facing a court order requiring compliance.

    The Publicity Code sets a range of provisions in relation to local authority publicity including the frequency, content and appearance of taxpayer-funded newssheets. This includes limiting publication to prevent competition with local newspapers, obliging councils to be cost effective and objective in any publicity material they publish.

    The purpose of the Publicity Code is to facilitate the creation of an environment which is as conducive as possible to the flourishing of the independent local media, an essential element of any effectively operating local democracy.

    Kris Hopkins said:

    It has been suggested that some councils might not be complying with the Publicity Code. Newsletters, newssheets or similar communications should not issue more frequently than quarterly.

    The great majority of local authorities comply with the Publicity Code, which was designed to ensure the independent local media - a vital part in any local democracy - does not face unfair competition.

    Councils should now take steps to ensure publication in the future will be in line with the Code’s provisions.

    Further information

    The recommended code of practice on local authority publicity applies to all decisions by local authorities relating to taxpayer-funded paid advertising and leaflet campaigns, publication of free newspapers and news-sheets and maintenance of websites - including the hosting of material which is created by third parties. It states that publicity by local authorities should:

    • be lawful
    • be cost effective
    • be objective
    • be even-handed
    • be appropriate
    • have regard to equality and diversity
    • be issued with care during periods of heightened sensitivity

    It does not inhibit publicity produced by political parties or councillors at their own expense.

    On objectivity the code states that:

    Local authorities should ensure that publicity relating to policies and proposals from central government is balanced and factually accurate. Such publicity may set out the local authority’s views and reasons for holding those views, but should avoid anything likely to be perceived by readers as constituting a political statement, or being a commentary on contentious areas of public policy.

    On even-handedness the code states that:

    Where local authority publicity addresses matters of political controversy it should seek to present the different positions in relation to the issue in question in a fair manner.

    On appropriate publicity the code states that:

    Local authorities should not publish or incur expenditure in commissioning in hard copy or on any website, newsletters, newssheets or similar communications which seek to emulate commercial newspapers in style or content. Where local authorities do commission or publish newsletters, news-sheets or similar communications, they should not issue them more frequently than quarterly, apart from parish councils which should not issue them more frequently than monthly. Such communications should not include material other than information for the public about the business, services and amenities of the council or other local service providers.

    Section 4A of the Local Government Act 1986 (inserted by the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014) gives the Secretary of State the power to direct a local authority to comply with some, or all, of the provisions of the recommended code of practice on local authority publicity. This code applies to all local authorities in England. If the direction is not complied with, a person having appropriate interest (such as a council taxpayer, elector, or a councillor of the authority concerned, or the Secretary of State), may seek a court order requiring compliance with the direction. Non-compliance with a court order may be contempt of court.

    Before issuing any such direction section 4A(5) of the 1988 Act requires the Secretary of State to give the council notice in writing of the proposed direction. The council then has a period of 14 days to make written representations to the Secretary of State. If after 10 working days of issuing the letters to the 7 councils the Secretary of State considers that there is a risk that in future any of those councils will not be complying with the Code, he will be minded to issue a written notice of a proposed direction to that council.

    The following table set out which councils have been written to and for what reason:

    Local authority Alleged form of non-compliance
    The London Borough of Lambeth Up to and including July 2014, copies of ‘Lambeth Talk’ delivered every month. Next copy September 2014.
    The London Borough of Hillingdon Copies of ‘Hillingdon People’ delivered every 2 months.
    The London Borough of Enfield Copies of ‘Our Enfield’ delivered every 2 months.
    Medway Council Copies of ‘Medway Matters’, delivered every 2 months.
    Luton Borough Council Copies of ‘Lutonline’ delivered every month.
    Mid Devon Copies of ‘Mid Devon Talk’ delivered every month.
    North Somerset Council Copies ‘North Somerset Life’ delivered every month.

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