Government plans to give local people greater say over parks

People angry about the state of their parks will be able to take them over or force their local authorities to improve them, under new government plans.

The new White Paper aims to "deliver a fundamental shift in power, influence and responsibility", said communities secretary Hazel Blears.

Locals will have more influence on decision-making, will be able to hold politicians and councils to account, and will be given more chances to manage local services.

New rules, for example, will make councils respond to petitions and force issues onto their agendas that must be discussed and voted on in full meetings.

"This could be used to raise issues as diverse as bin collections and street cleaning or the state of local parks," said a representative.

She added that parks and community centres would be handed over to locals if they could do a better job of running them. "There's nothing to stop parks being taken over. Like any other asset transfer, it's up to the local situation."

A new asset-transfer unit would be formed in central government to help community groups in leadership and management issues.

Blears said: "In many parts of the country local democracy needs a boost, with low turnout at elections and people feeling they can't influence the way issues are decided. The White Paper provides practical ways to put communities in control and push any issue they think important up the priority list of their council."

Communities in Control: Real People, Real Power states that chairs and chief executives will face regular public hearings. "Community kitties" will let locals decide how to spend cash.

The Government gave examples of "empowerment in action", which included Kendray, a big housing estate in Barnsley, nicknamed "the Bronx". The council teamed up with residents to form a "clean-and-tidy agreement". Locals had different tasks including cleaning verges and keeping gardens clean.

The YouGov survey of almost 2,000 people in England found:

  • - 63 per cent signed a petition in the past five years;
  • - 90 per cent feel councils should take account of petitions;
  • - 84 per cent were more likely to petition if a response was guaranteed;
  • - 34 per cent don't know their council's process for submitting petitions.

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