Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Localism: I told you so!

Way back in February, this blog anticipated a hidden agenda behind localism - that it would only apply where 'locals' did broadly what the Government expected. And lo, it came to pass. The CLG Select Committee report on localism raises many concerns including: "The litmus test of localism will be the Government's reaction to local decisions with which it disagrees."

The report also makes other sharp observations, particularly in highlighting the need for culture change and stating that both ministers and civil servants need to curb their "appetite for intervention". Localism will succeed or fail not on the mechanics of legislation, but on how people behave and respond to this new balance of power.

At the moment I'm pessimistic, not least because of the nature of the Government's response to the Select Committee's recommendations [here]. The Committee's pointed concerns are replied to with bland political rhetoric and broad statements of intent. Very few specifics; certainly no mention for example of the weekly bin collection fiasco of a few months back (if Local Authorities can't decide this, what can they decide?). Still less on how the Government will respond to the next major (local) social care incident.

It's not just the nature of the Government's response; its tone and phrasing also weakens its credibility. One of localism's stated goals is to increase local democracy and strengthen public engagement with the democratic system. How can it achieve this if challenging questions are answered with the same old bland, evasive claptrap that has undermined people's faith in politicians for decades?

If the Government is really serious about devolving power to local levels, it has to do a lot better than this.

Check my web site at www.real-improvement.com for more information and ideas.

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