Plans for new homes scrapped as local control strengthened

LABOUR'S controversial plans to force thousands of new homes on communities across the country will be axed by the new coalition Government.

The top-down housing targets that would have seen nearly a quarter of a million homes built in Yorkshire over the next 15 years will be scrapped as part of a Decentralisation and Localism Bill which pledges to return decision-making powers on housing and planning to local councils.

Labour's new Infrastructure Planning Commission – a quango set up to force through large-scale strategic projects such as wind farms – will be scrapped, and replaced with a more "democratically-accountable system" which will still allow for the fast-tracking of major schemes.

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A raft of powers will also be handed back to communities, including new rights to instigate local referendums, to veto excessive council tax increases, help save local facilities and services threatened with closure, and take over state-run services.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles said: "This important bill would shift power from the central state back into the hands of individuals, communities and councils. It will empower local people giving them more power over local government. It will free local government from central and regional control so that they can ensure services are delivered according to local needs."

The new government has even appointed a Minister for Decentralisation, Greg Clark, who said the bill would "reverse years of creeping state control".

Measures will also make councils and other public bodies more accountable, with each forced to publish the salaries and expenses of senior officials.

David Cameron's long-promised 'bonfire of the quangos' has also been accounted for in a Public Bodies (Reform) Bill, which Downing Street claims will save 1bn per year in reduced bureaucracy. It will make provision for ministers to abolish, merge and transfer the functions of public bodies more easily.

Most Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) will be replaced with new partnerships between councils and local businesses focused on promoting economic development.

But in areas where the RDAs have the support of businesses and local councils they are expected to be allowed to continue in their current form.