Political and Administrative Decentralisation – LWM policy statement

Our Policy

LWM supports the decentralisation of political and administrative power to the most local level practical.

We recognise the complexities in getting the right balance between central, local and regional government.

We believe that this balance should be based on the principles of:

  • Subsidiarity (making decisions at the lowest practical level)
  • Responsibility and authority should be held at the same level
  • The system needs to be clear enough to engage citizens
  • Local choice and diversity should be recognised as positive
  • Value should be given to the economies of local knowledge
  • Democratic responsibility should be maximised
  • Financial independence of the different tiers should be maximised
  • The structures need to be strong enough to enable the local to resist the insidious growth of centralism.

Why do we need more decentralisation?

This country has one of, if not the most, centralised government structures in the democratic world. The system does not work for the following reasons:

  • It separates ‘power to decide’ from ‘responsibility to deliver’
  • It is highly bureaucratic, expensive and inefficient
  • It is confusing for those who try and engage with it
  • It undermines democracy
  • It undermines any sense of local place, culture or advantage
  • It imposes inappropriate ‘one size fits all’ solutions
  • It undermines local innovation and solutions
  • It creates big national solutions often requiring national or multinational organisations to implement
  • It undervalues and undermines local communities
  • It centralises spending on government jobs and those related to government – often meaning that the poorer areas of the country subsidise the South East economy
  • It undermines the value of local knowledge, networks and presence, thus undermining local and regional economies
  • It has its own perverse logic that leads to ever more perverse consequences which in turn lead to more centralisation and more perverse consequences
  • It overloads the centre, undermining its capacity to make sound decisions
  • It undermines joined-up government at the local level.

These symptoms are not just prevalent at the national level: large local authorities and regional bodies also often follow the same centralising tendency.

How it links to other aspects of localism

The overarching nature of centralised government in this country leads to other aspects of our lives being centralised, creating larger public and private institutions because it is easier for them to deal with the centre and the centre to deal with them. Thus we get larger institutions such as hospitals and housing associations, more national media, larger national voluntary and lobbying organisations and private companies which in turn gravitate towards London. They are less sensitive to local needs and require their staff to travel further to work, their customers further to use their services and their goods further to reach their customers – all leading to additional damage to the local and global environment. It also undermines the control people have over their own working lives and the value of face-to-face relationships, important aspects of wellbeing.

How we can tackle the problem

LWM will promote changes in the various tiers of government according to our principles outlined above, by:

  • Working with politicians and the media
  • Getting involved in local campaigns, and political activity
  • Promoting local diversity and examples of local good practice
  • Supporting the Sustainable Communities Bill.

LWM 2007

Further Reading

Simon Jenkins:  “Big Bang Localism”

The Power Inquiry: “Power to the People”

LWM: “Making Government Work for Local Communities”

LWM: “ Developing Strong Communities”

The Lyons Inquiry: “Local Choice and Civic Engagement”

The Sustainable Communities Act

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