Is the Sustainable Communities Act the most important legislation since 2000?

Steve Shaw discusses the importance of the Sustainable Communities Act, and asks if it is the most important piece of legislation of the past decade.

Steve Shaw is a grassroots mass mobilisation specialist. He spent four years as co-ordinator of the Local Works coalition that successfully campaigned for the Sustainable Communities Bill to become law as the Sustainable Communities Act 2007. He now co-ordinates the coalition’s promotion of the Act across the country.

The Sustainable Communities Act was born out of a grassroots movement of people. These people were concerned about the alarming rate of national decline of their communities, with pubs, post offices, shops and services closing at a disturbing pace. The full extent of this decline was documented in the new economics foundation “Ghost Town Britain” reports of 2001 and 2002.

People were just as concerned by the powerlessness they felt to do anything about this decline, as unseen market forces and distant officials thwarted any attempt at a reversal. As the Power Inquiry of 2006 demonstrated, people are interested with what is going on around them, but feel unable to influence political institutions and politicians; if they could genuinely influence decisions of governance they would.

The Act was drawn up to address these two related problems; its philosophy was that local people are the experts on their own problems and the solutions to them, but that government can act in order to achieve the changes sought.

After a massive grassroots mobilisation campaign led by the Local Works coalition the Act was passed in October 2007 with full cross-party support. It gave people the power to put proposals to government, via their local authorities, for changes that would help their communities. In 2009, under the first “round” of the Act, there was an amazing response, with 100 councils putting forward 300 proposals to government. View these here.

For the first time in our history, the Act gives people the right not just to be consulted, but to actually play a part in the final decision taken – via a process of “reaching agreement.” Some of the best examples of councils’ engagement of residents can be viewed here.

In the same way, government must “reach agreement” with an independent body set up under the Act (“the Selector”) about which proposals will be implemented. This is happening at the moment, with the results announced at Local Works’ reception in Parliament on December 15th. Soon we will see a whole raft of new innovations being implemented across the country to reverse the tide of community decline, an unprecedented event.

And we will also see the launch of the second round, when the whole process will happen all over again. The Minister for Decentralisation, Greg Clark, spoke in Parliament on November 16th and said:

“I regard the Sustainable Communities Act 2007 as one of the most important pieces of legislation to be enacted in the past decade.”

We agree.

• Campaign ask: Please sign up to Local Works so we can help you use the Act next year to help your community; sign up at www.localworks.org

19 Responses to “Is the Sustainable Communities Act the most important legislation since 2000?”

  1. AltGovUK

    Is the Sustainable Communities Act the most important legislation since 2000? //bit.ly/ezALC6 via @leftfootfwd

  2. Andrew Simms

    RT @leftfootfwd: Is the Sustainable Communities Act the most important legislation since 2000? //bit.ly/f77PQy

  3. James Graham

    RT @leftfootfwd: Is the Sustainable Communities Act the most important legislation since 2000? //bit.ly/ezALC6

  4. nef

    "The most important legislation since 2000?" @leftfootfwd on the Sustainable Communities Act, won by nef and others //bit.ly/fIUorm

  5. Lee Chalmers

    RT @theneweconomics: "The most important legislation since 2000?" @leftfootfwd on the Sustainable Communities Act, //bit.ly/fIUorm

  6. Éoin Clarke

    The Communities Act was a crucial piece of legislation. Macro Power creates a tiny number of leaders, in some case a dictator. Micro Power creates an inifinite number of leaders, managers and role models. It is not big society that we should seek, it is micro societies thousands of them. Socialism works best we it can be conceptualised at the lowest level of society in everyday life. The Communities Act allows that. Acting together as one, in solidarity for the common good. Great to see a tabulated list of its successes! Keep up the great work.

  7. Capacity Global

    RT @leftfootfwd: Is the Sustainable Communities Act the most important legislation since 2000? //bit.ly/ezALC6

  8. DrKMJ

    Is the Sustainable Communities Act the most important legislation since 2000? //bit.ly/ezALC6

  9. Barbara Crowther

    RT @AndrewSimms_nef: RT @leftfootfwd: Is the Sustainable Communities Act the most important legislation since 2000? //bit.ly/f77PQy

  10. Alexandra Runswick

    RT @leftfootfwd: Is the Sustainable Communities Act the most important legislation since 2000? //bit.ly/ezALC6

  11. Martin Siesta

    RT @leftfootfwd: Is the Sustainable Communities Act the most important legislation since 2000? //bit.ly/f77PQy

  12. Stephen Whitehead

    The sustainable communities act probably not as important as @steveshaw says, but still a crucial precedent //bit.ly/fHTBXL

  13. Chris Salter

    RT @leftfootfwd: Is the Sustainable Communities Act the most important legislation since 2000? //bit.ly/f77PQy #ppnuk

  14. Hitchin England

    Is the Sustainable Communities Act the most important legislation since 2000? //bit.ly/ezALC6 via @leftfootfwd

  15. noelito

    well done to @steveshaw for sustainable communities act, could be great tool for communities to develop #micronomics //bit.ly/hY9sPE

  16. Steve Shaw

    Is the Sustainable Communities Act the most important law since 2000? Article from Steve Shaw of Local Works: //tinyurl.com/399ke9f

  17. Kris Witherington

    My concern with the SCA was the total lack of teeth that it came with and this looks worryingly like this has been demonstrated in the first round. The government’s response to the 200 proposal short list it received took nearly a near (probably due to a change of government) and then basically lists the ideas in 3 blocks – things we were going to do anyway, things we are happy to talk about further and things we have no intention of changing. Does anyone really belief that the coalition agreement really involved trawling through the SCA short list and agreeing policy?

    In effect all the work and community mobilisation that took place was entirely wasted and I wonder how many people who got involved in 2008 will not bother again. A lot of work will be needed to sell the outcomes from the last round – showing what really changed – before really pushing the new system as there is still no pressure on government to do anything with the ideas.

  18. Mel Risebrow

    RT @Local_Works Is the Sustainable Communities Act the most important law since 2000? Article: //tinyurl.com/399ke9f

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