Tag Archives: localism

Opinion: The myth of the council war on motorists

Despite being nominally committed to localism, this government, with Eric Pickles as secretary of state, has been unable to resist trying to micromanage councils’ local policies, whether on bin collections, or imminent legislation on car parking enforcement.

Even leaving aside the argument that such things are better decided locally, is there any truth to Pickles’ belief that councils are ‘waging war on the motorist’? In my experience, no. Councillors of all parties and council officers alike are all too aware of people’s frustration about finding parking spaces or receiving parking tickets.

If there has been any kind of war it has come from central government. From the 1990s, when John Gummer was secretary of state, governments reversed their previous policies that had encouraged out of town shopping, while making it unviable to regenerate town centres. Instead they introduced new planning rules to restrict out-of-town development and enhance town centres.

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Opinion: Localism is dead – what hope for Local Government ?

Sheffield Town HallThe Localism Act was introduced in November 2011 on a promise of new freedoms and flexibilities for local government, new rights and powers for communities and individuals, and a guarantee to make the planning system more democratic so as to ensure decisions about housing reflect local community wishes. Even the most ardent supporters of this coalition government will be hard pushed to provide evidence that localism has done anything of the sort.

Instead, what we have witnessed in the past four years is a constant reduction of local government budgets …

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Opinion: Getting serious about localism

Local growth deals are a good thing. Of course they are. How could they not be? Now what are they again?

The mechanics of government finance never cease to amaze or bore. But we do need to care because when it comes to devolution, it’s a question of ‘follow the money’.

There are in fact, according to a Local Government Association report last week, 124 funding streams for local growth and regeneration. These are spread across 20 Government departments and agencies and account for a total of £22 billion, all to be spent in your local area on your local things.

So when the Government announces it is devolving £2 billion on LGFs, context becomes rather significant. As does the essentially pointless complexity, worthy of an abbey full of medieval theologians.

Those in the know are fully on top of the difference between the Custom Build fund, the Community Right to Build fund, the Beds in Sheds fund, the New Homes Bonus and the Decent Homes fund. And the difference between the Linking Places fund, the Local Pinch Point fund, the Local Sustainable Transport fund and the Better Bus Areas fund. I could go on. But I promise I won’t.

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Opinion: Lib Dems and the EU. Should we assert our Radical Localist side?

Map of the European UnionAt the beginning of the year, the European elections were looking touch and go for the Lib Dems.  Our poll ratings were on the borderline of losing our MEPs, so we took a risk.  We gambled on a strategy that, if it paid off, would win us the few percent of extra votes needed to hold most of our MEPs.  The tactic was to highlight that we are the only truly pro-Europe party, which would attract swing voters from more lukewarm parties. So we went all in with ‘The Party of In’. It was a gamble we lost.

Public opinion of the EU is mixed. People acknowledge the benefits of membership but many think the costs are too high. Polls suggest similar numbers of people want to leave the EU as want to stay in. But if the terms of membership are renegotiated, the majority of people support staying in.

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Opinion: Henry Ford and the coalition’s ‘localism’

Brent Town Hall. Photo credit: stevecadman on FlickrFord famously commented that customers could have any colour they like as long as it’s black. It feels to me that at the moment we can have any localism we like as long as it’s blue.

Two particular events have provoked this thought. The first is that that council tax bills are about to go out and, under localism, a council cannot raise council tax significantly, including to protect services, without holding a referendum. However they can cut council tax and services without any such requirement. Furthermore, as councils have to pay for the referendum themselves, increasing council tax by a little over the limit is not financially viable. Therefore the referendum rules do not give local people more control so much as force councils to subscribe to Conservative ideas about the balance between services and taxation.

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Opinion: Real localism – it could surprise us all

Everyone’s talking about Localism now – we’ve even got a Government Act. Yet when that very Act gives the Secretary of State 126 new powers over local government, you have to wonder if we all mean the same thing.

Liberal Democrats have been advocating devolution, double devolution and subsidiarity for many years. But central government continues to tighten its throttlehold over local authorities with little trust in local politicians and local communities and their ability to do what’s best for local people. London boroughs receive 74% of their income through central government grants, compared to 31% for New York, 18% for …

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Opinion: We need to address the need for a re-balance in education localism

If we, as Lib Dems, have learnt anything from the march from complete local authority control, through self-management of schools and on to the drive for academies and free schools, it is that localism in education should not just be about empowering head teachers and governing bodies but must also raise standards across the board.  If this means bringing back some of those vital local authority-run ancillary services that allow heads to concentrate on the quality of teaching, so be it. Dogmatic opposition based on historic myth or anecdotal evidence has no place in education policy.

As we have witnessed over the last three years, the relentless approach of the Secretary of State to a continual reform agenda – a few good, many not so good, and some downright awful from our local government Lib Dem perspective – has meant that problems such as the provision of sufficient school places and the needs of vulnerable pupils haven’t had a proper look in. Whilst it is okay to notice OFSTED looking at regional structures in order to undertake improvement, as well as inspection, is it enough without the input of the localised knowledge only a Council can supply? I think not.

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarStevan Rose 23rd Oct - 12:03am
    It is shocking that a Belgian region can scupper trade deals of this kind. It's certainly not democratic for a tiny minority to hold the...
  • User Avatarfrankie 22nd Oct - 10:51pm
    El Sid Your point 4. The EU have made it clear that they’re not going to sit down and hammer out a deal that benefits...
  • User AvatarMichael BG 22nd Oct - 10:47pm
    @ EL Sid The EU has a tiny bureaucracy, but decision making is slow and difficult because of the need to try to bring every...
  • User AvatarAlistair 22nd Oct - 10:34pm
    Annabel, noone says the trade will stop. Merely that the terms of trade will be worse. Some things will be more expensive, others cheaper.
  • User AvatarAnnabel 22nd Oct - 10:19pm
    Paul W, you pointed out the stats in relation to trade between Canada and the US, and the fact that Canada's trade with the EU...
  • User AvatarAlistair 22nd Oct - 10:08pm
    If I had a Pound for every clown telling me about the Euro collapsing, just as the Euro soars against the pound, I would have...