Steve Beasant

Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Great Grimsby and Councillor for the East Marsh Learn more

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LGA calls for a Magna Carta for local government

by Steve Beasant on 14 June, 2015

It’s best known as the basis for the rule of law and the first formal attempt to limit the power of a monarch, but was Magna Carta also an early precursor to devolution?

With separate provisions for Scotland and Wales and a clause allowing “all cities, boroughs, towns and ports” to enjoy their “liberties and free customs” there could be a case.

As councils across the country celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Great Charter many are calling on the Government to write an equally radical document and a Magna Carta of its own.

The LGA is calling for a renaissance of governance in the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill to empower councils to address today’s social and economic challenges as part of its DevoNext campaign.

Cllr David Sparks, Chair of the Local Government Association, said:

“Magna Carta has come to be recognised as the foundation of law and democracy in many other countries around the world and shows how our nation once led the way.

“But now the UK is lagging behind in terms of the balance of power and we are one of the most centrally governed of the 34 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries.

“The Magna Carta celebrations come as we urge the Government to enter a new era of democracy and hand decision-making and spending powers down to communities, where they belong.

“Councils are leading the way on devolution and are using the anniversary of Magna Carta to reflect on issues such as the importance of civic life and how to engage young people in our democracy.”

The Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill was announced in the Queen’s Speech after proposals to devolve powers to city regions under elected mayors were mooted in the Conservative manifesto.

The late inclusion of the phrase ‘local government’ in the title comes after the LGA lobbied for it to be more inclusive and gives rise to the expectation devolution will extend to non-metropolitan England.

Meanwhile, councils across the country will celebrate the 800th anniversary of when the Barons met with King John at Runnymede and established many of the common rights enjoyed today.

Surrey County Council is leading the national commemoration at Runnymede Meadows, on June 15, with Her Majesty the Queen, Prince Philip, Prince Charles and other dignitaries.

In Salisbury thousands are expected to attend a Wiltshire Council event featuring a colourful parade led by larger-than-life puppets representing different elements of the community.

The Borough Council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk is hosting a King John-themed treasure trail following the legend that the ruler lost his treasure while trying to cross the Wash

Many other celebrations are taking place around the country details of which are on council websites.

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