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News in Brief: Devolution Act fails to grant councils 'true freedom'; Scottish Government urges people to go greener

Words: Laura Edgar

Devolution Act fails to grant councils ‘true freedom’, says law expert

The new Cities and Local Government Devolution Act restricts local council to “Whitehall’s terms” rather than granting them the “freedom they so desperately need to function”, according to a constitutional law expert at City University London.

The act, which received Royal Assent on Thursday 28 January, will see powers, including those for planning and transport, devolved to cities and regions that have agreed to have a directly elected metro mayor.

Dr John Stanton, a senior lecturer at City University London, said although the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act does ensure new greater powers for regions and cities, “it seems to expect devolution on Whitehall’s terms as all deals must be agreed with the secretary of state”.

Going forward, Stanton said central government needs to let councils “get on with it” and “enjoy the freedom they so desperately need to function appropriately”.

He continued: “While the various ‘City Deals’ are nothing if not positive steps towards the development of local power and successful decentralisation, there is a sense that the new act rather misses the point. For many years, many of the difficulties facing councils in Britain have stemmed from issues at the centre.”

“Fierce financial cuts to local authority budgets combined with a persistent reluctance at the centre to ‘let go’ and afford councils the freedom to lead local areas have conspired to produce a centralist culture whereby local authorities have become mere satellites of the centre,” he concluded.

Date proposed for Manchester mayoral elections

Northern Powerhouse minister James Wharton has announced that a mayor for Greater Manchester will be elected on Thursday 4 May 2017.

Wharton said: “Building a Northern Powerhouse is central to our plans to rebalance the economy – key to that is handing powers back to local areas.

“Greater Manchester is leading the way and on 4 May 2017 local people will have a direct say over who they want to run their city region.

“Six other areas have already signed devolution deals, and with our change in the law to devolve even more powers from Westminster, I’m confident that many other areas will soon follow suit.”

Scottish Government urges people to go greener

A new Scottish Government campaign encourages Scots to help fight climate change.

The government’s message is “saving the world isn’t just for movies”. The campaign comes after recent surveys suggest that around half of Scots acknowledge that climate change is an “immediate and urgent problem”, with eight in 10 saying they could do more.

The campaign aims to raise awareness of how making greener and cleaner lifestyles are easier than people think, such as by washing clothes at a lower temperature and recycling food waste.

Read what Scottsh climate change minister Aileen McLeod said here.

Paddington skycraper plans withdrawn

Developer Irvine Sellar has withdrawn plans for Paddington Place. Sellar will reconsider the plans following concerns raised by campaigners and Historic England. The plans were due to be considered by Westminster City Council’s planning committee on 8 March.

Westminster Labour councillors have maintained that the scheme “failed to deliver for local people, changing the skyline dramatically” and “failing to provide much-needed affordable housing”.

Labour group leader Adam Hug said: “Westminster residents won’t accept only cosmetic changes to the Paddington Pole plans, shaving off just a few floors and hoping no one notices. There must be a real rethink about how this important site is used so that it benefits local people. We must all remain vigilant to ensure that this happens.”

Planning permission for Oxford Brookes University redevelopment

Berman Guedes Stretton has won permission to refurbish Sinclair Building, Clerici Building, Former Library and Main Hall at the Headington Campus at Oxford Brookes University.

The project is the first phase of the Universities Estates Strategy for the campus and kick-starts a 10-year facilities upgrade programme.

The £40 million project aims to create a new entrance gateway to the university, new facilities for the faculty of business, a new lecture theatre and shared teaching spaces.

Greystar acquires former GlaxoSmithKline HQ

Greystar Europe Holdings Ltd and an institutional partner have acquired a 26.5 site in Greenford, West London.

Plans for the site, which was home to GlaxoSmithKline and J Lyons & Co operations, will comprise a mixed-use development with a focus on rental housing. It will also include residential properties to buy, employment, retail, amenity and community spaces.

Mark Allnutt, managing director at Greystar UK Multifamily Team, said: “We are working closely with the local community and the London Borough of Ealing to regenerate the site and create a true, sustainable community. The Greenford site represents our opportunity to introduce an entirely new way of living to the UK. The multifamily model allows people of all ages and life stages to enjoy the benefits of fully managed properties with superior specifications and amenities. We believe that this marks the beginning of a revolution in the UK property market, and are proud to be leading the way.”

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