Speaking at a rally tonight to promote the Sustainable Communities Bill, Liberal Democrat Leader Menzies Campbell will challenge the Labour Government to support the Bill.
He pointed out that the original Bill was introduced by the Liberal Democrats in 2002.
Menzies Campbell said:
“I am here to pledge the Liberal Democrats’ support for the Sustainable Communities Bill.
“Not only because a commitment to empowering local communities lies at the very heart of our party’s philosophy. But also because we have a proven record on this issue and we are very proud of it.
“Labour is strong on rhetoric when it comes to local communities and the importance of devolving power. But if they are to be believed, they must end their ambivalence towards the Bill.”
Talking about the importance of the Bill, Menzies Campbell said:
“Communities across the United Kingdom are suffering. People feel powerless to counter the effects of twin pressures on their local communities.
“First, competition from multi-national business undercuts local providers and forces smaller shops to close.
“And second, the decisions made by faceless central government – over financial support for local communities – fail to reflect local priorities because they do not sufficiently engage local people in the decision-making process.
“As a result of those pressures local facilities are being lost. Shops, post offices, schools and medical practices are all closing. People in urban and rural areas are watching the decline of their town centres.
“We are witnessing the emergence of Ghost Town Britain. It makes local people angry and frustrated. And as the Member of Parliament for a rural seat where small towns rely on good local amenities – it makes me angry too.
“But the Sustainable Communities Bill offers a chance to change things. It will require councils to promote local participation in the debate about how to make communities sustainable. And it will require government to consider how it can assist local councils to meet the needs highlighted by local people.
“This bill will put the interests of local people at the forefront of policy making. And it will put the heart back into local communities throughout this country. I am proud to support it. And I challenge Ruth Kelly and the Labour Government to do the same.”