Localism Bill — Committee (9th Day)
Baroness Hanham (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Communities and Local Government; Conservative)
My Lords, I thank noble Lords for their brevity in introducing these amendments. I do not think that I want to comment widely on what my noble friend Lord Jenkin said in addressing the stand part. It was not entirely to do with this part of the Bill but was a much more wide-ranging discussion on the nature of the Bill and his concerns about it. I am glad to know that he will be able to express them to the Minister who is handling the Bill, Greg Clark, and I am sure that the discussions will be well received, because Greg Clark has been very notable in consensus in the other place. Whether he will be able to be consensual with what is being said, I do not know. Noble Lords say that the Bill is trying to micromanage all the processes, but we do not think that that is what we are trying to do. It intends to provide guidance in regulations and to use a light-touch way to bring in what is in many cases, in many parts of the Bill, a new way to manage local areas and authorities.
I want to address one or two areas that were raised. The noble Lord, Lord True, has a very great deal of concerns about this Bill. There is not a lot that I can say to reassure him to make it any better. But as regards why the local authority should make decisions, I think that the noble Lord himself, as leader of a council, would be very upset if the council did not have a role in ensuring that neighbourhood forums were where they were wanted by the neighbourhood. He would be upset if they were not properly constructed in a way that the council thought was sensible, as well as the people who lived in that area. On why communities will be taking the initiative in planning their areas and on who will initiate the process of deciding a neighbourhood area, the local council will have an important role in the work of ensuring that they are coherent. On overlapping areas and ward boundaries, the latter are reasonably sensible in towns, being well understood and well designated. They largely cover similar areas and similar problems. However, I do not believe that there is any difficulty in cities. If I am wrong about this, I will be corrected and will come back on it but I see no reason why there should not be two forums within a ward, if that is the way the ward splits up.