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The Coalition Government wants to shift power and decision making to the lowest possible level through its Big Society, Public Services and Localism reforms. The Decentralisation and Localism Bill was introduced in December 2010 and will legislate for changes to shift power from central government to local government and communities. Our research has shown that whilst BME VCOs welcome the principle of local decision making, they are concerned about how BME and disadvantaged communities will be involved in practice. Voice4Change England (V4CE) is keeping a watchful eye on the Bill and the new rights and powers which will result from it as well as other initiatives emerging at a local level.
What we want to see
- Accountability: Government should provide a strong national steer on equality and human rights objectives whilst allowing local authorities to be responsive to local needs. Light touch bureaucracy can have benefits but there is a need for national Government to hold Public Authorities to account to ensure minimum equality standards are met and good practice is encouraged.
- Strategic decision making: Government should ensure that local decision making includes strategic mechanisms and clear processes for unpopular but essential land uses and other decisions. This should include ensuring that councillors and local politicians are equipped to make strategic decisions on land use. For example by providing training to ensure they understand the needs of Gypsies and Travellers and the issues they face.
- Resources and support: Government should support BME VCOs to secure adequate funding and resources to ensure marginalised communities are able to benefit from the localism agenda, for example the freeing up of state services.
What we have done
• Hosted a series of local roadshows bringing together VCOs, private sector and public sector organisations on topical issues.
• Delivered training on the Compact to enable BME VCS organisations to build partnerships with local statutory partners.
• Responded to the CLG Community Right to Challenge consultation
• Responded to the CLG Committee Inquiry on Localism 2010
• Signed Friends of the Earth’s joint statement on the Localism Bill to include a definition of sustainable development to apply to planning.
Why is localism important to the BME VCS?
Most BME VCOs operate at a local level as a result of communities coming together to develop their own solutions to discrimination and disadvantage.
We want to see BME VCOs fully taking on the opportunities that the localism agenda offers to ensure that the needs of BME communities are met and public service provision is responsive to these needs.
We envisage the BME VCS enabling an environment where BME communities are encouraged and empowered to run public services and establish social enterprises, co-ops and other forms of VCOs.