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Bill has ‘grave risks’

RADICAL plans – which could allow local people to take over council services – have received a luke-warm reception in Solihull.

RADICAL plans – which could allow local people to take over council services – have received a luke-warm reception in Solihull.

The Localism Bill, unveiled earlier this year, could see residents’ groups assume control of street lighting, libraries, and more.

But Ian Hedley, the leader of Solihull Council, said that there were “grave risks” attached to the proposals.

“At the moment, the council has accountability for the services we offer,” he told last week’s cabinet meeting.

“But if other groups take over, how do people hold them to account in the same way – they’re not elected. I fear there could be unintended consequences.”

Coun Hedley also worried that organisations like parish councils would bid to take over services, and then pull-out: “What happens if six, nine, or 12 months down the line they get fed up and say ‘we don’t want this anymore’.”

Under legislation, working its way through Parliament, communities will have the right to bid for state-run services.

Ministers argue that the “right to challenge” will place more power in the hands of local people.

But critics claim that the process could lead to back-door privatisation.

Coun John Reeve (Lib Dem, Shirley East) suggested that residents’ groups could eventually take over branch

libraries.

“It could be the case that you’ve got village libraries which we as an authority are struggling to maintain,” he said. “And maybe in future the services there will be provided mostly by volunteers.”

 

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