Is the term ‘localism’ used by government to promote outcomes that contradict its original meaning?

james robertson headerA thoughtful appraisal of localism by Ekklesia’s staff writers was brought to our attention by James Robertson’s December newsletter. To read it in full click on this link.

A new research project, Localism Watch, examines the impact of the coalition government’s ‘localism’ initiatives, which they say have helped to privatise local services, weaken local government and force voluntary groups to pick up the pieces.

localism watch header

The editor, Laird Ryan (below left) has held several senior roles in government, academia and the voluntary sector. His findings: many local councillors, charity organisers, community groups and trades unions have a limited and confused idea of what new powers they have gained or lost from recent laws that supposedly promote localism:

“Officially, the Localism Act 2011 will “shift power from central government back into the hands of individuals, communities and councils”, through new community rights and planning powers” but, to date, few communities have successfully claimed them, due to complex and expensive bureaucracy.

laird ryan“True localism goes against the grain of Britain’s ruling culture”, argues Laird Ryan. “Whether left or right-leaning, national policies are more likely to benefit people at the centre than people at the grassroots.”

Language is being manipulated – using ‘localism’ to describe policies that centralise power and maximise corporate profits. One example supporting this assertion is the 2013 Growth and Infrastructure Act; though even its explanatory notes were not helpful to the writer.

Ekklesia’s staff writers say:

  • it curtails citizens’ rights to have a say in major planning proposals such as HS2 allows larger home extensions without planning consent
  • and permits drilling under property without the owners’ consent for fracking or oil extraction.

And several developments have confirmed Ryan’s summary: “Under Cameron, local communities can challenge councils to run public services, but they have lost their right to challenge proposals for nuclear proliferation, fracking or HS2”.

Birmingham – capital of community transport?

High Speed 2: comment received from local sustainable energy and transport  consultant

 

“I think that the Chambers of Commerce etc, who are backing HS2 are assuming that it will be the taxpayers who pay for this. 

“They are expecting a ‘free ride’. If a bill was presented to them for the £33 billions they would react very differently. 

“Businessmen work on trains anyway, so don’t need to have time savings. 

“In fact, the model predicts 70% of journeys will be ‘leisure’, i.e. going to London for shopping or to see a show (better off only). 

“The transport need is an alternative to the car for local journeys and that means investment in local rail, bus or tram, rather than intercity.”

Birmingham’s desire to become the capital of community action on climate change will be furthered by taking this advice.