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.
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.
“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”.