Groups of residents will be able to save their pubs, shops, libraries and leisure centres from closure under plans to be set out next week to shift power to local communities.
They will get the chance to step in if valued local services – often regarded as the lifeblood of villages and suburbs – are put on the market. The sale would be automatically delayed, triggering a "community countdown", giving residents time to draw up a business plan and raise the money to buy the service.
Local and voluntary groups will also gain the right to bid to take over the running of services, such as children's centres, social care or even local transport links, if they believe they can drive up standards.
They would be given the formal right to challenge local authorities if they believed they could provide higher standards. Councils would be required to consider the application – and supply full details if they turned it down.
Residents will also be able to apply for new homes to be built locally if they believe there is a shortage of affordable housing or families need to be attracted into the area. Building schemes supported by more than 50 per cent of voters in a referendum would get the go-ahead – rather than the 75 per cent previously proposed by the Government. The scheme will operate in all types of community, and not just rural areas. The moves will be set out in a Localism Bill to be published on Monday.