Extract: Simon Jenkins "This localism bill shows Eric Pickles is Hazel Blears in super-sized wolf's clothing":
"... If one hole at the heart of the bill is democracy, the other is taxation. Because they are unelected, the new "relevant" bodies will not have the one power that drives government forward: the power to tax the communities they purport to lead. Even elected local councils are to remain capped, unless they choose to call a single-issue referendum on a high-spending alternative budget. Pickles is in effect preventing the one change that might mitigate the agony of cuts – and mitigate their political pain for the coalition – which is some local discretion to tax and spend.
As a result the English are not to be permitted powers and functions enjoyed by democratic communities across Europe. No political party has sufficient confidence in local people to take the risk. None has the faith. All are led by Westminster politicians who fear any loss of central control implied by subsidiary democracy. A community will need government permission to blow its nose... "
Extract: Peter Hetherington, "Localism costs - but where is the cash?":
"Community empowerment costs money. That much is self-evident behind the rhetoric underpinning this week's localism bill. Local government secretary Eric Pickles says it foreshadows a "new constitutional arrangement" between the centre and communities. But change on this scale carries a considerable pricetag.
The legislation, designed to devolve power from Whitehall to town halls and to parishes and yet-to-be-defined neighbourhoods – comes against the background of savage cuts in local government alongside a centrally imposed council tax freeze. Yet raising new money is crucial to the success of the bill. Questioned about the unprecedented squeeze on town hall budgets, Pickles talked boldly of eventually transferring responsibility for business rates back to councils in a review of council finance due to be completed by next July. We shall see."