Tag Archives: localism

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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David Cameron poaches Lib Dem tax-cuts idea. (But that’s not half as annoying as the Tory ideas my party’s trying to claim.)

It’s amazing how much more popular with David Cameron the Lib Dems’ flagship policy of taking the low-paid out of income tax is these days… Just today he celebrated delivering an income tax cut for 25 million people and lifting 2.4 million low earners out of tax:

It’s all a bit of a contrast from the first 2010 televised leaders’ debate, when David Cameron argued the policy was unaffordable… unlike the Tories’ own proposals for raising the inheritance tax threshold to £1m or tax breaks for married couples, of course.

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Opinion: Time to take the politics out of housing

We need an Office of Housing Responsibility to take politics out of housing.

Planning minister, Nick Boles said on 17 July 2013.

Every government member will be able to campaign with pride on the Localism Act at the next election in 2015, because by 2015 it will have delivered.

Nick Boles is wrong. Localism won’t have been delivered by 2015. And it never will be until there is agreement on how to solve the housing crisis.

Localism is not being delivered because local plans are not being completed. Too many plans are being held up with by a four-way ping pong between councils, communities, …

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Don Foster MP writes… Local communities say ‘Yes’ to locally-led housebuilding

Amid all the excitement of the local elections, two results of polls on the same day may have passed you by. While in many parts of the country voters were electing local councillors, in Thame in Oxfordshire and in the St.James area of Exeter voters were deciding whether to accept or reject locally developed Neighbourhood Plans.

Like many Liberal Democrats I was anxious to see how well we did in the council elections. But as Minister with responsibility for “localism”, I was also keeping a close eye on these Neighbourhood Plan referenda.

After all Neighbourhood Planning is part of …

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Has Nick Boles given the kiss of life to localism?

Announcements come out of the communities department at all times of the day and night these days it seems. Rather before most of us were awake on Thursday morning, the department slipped out a statement that may just breathe life into the flagging localism project.

Coming hours after the appearance of planning minister Nick Boles on Newsnight on Wednesday, the statement gave a firm commitment that communities will soon benefit from development on their patch.

The plan is that parish and town councils will get a sizeable share of the community infrastructure levy imposed on most new developments. At …

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Eric Pickles: are you a cigar-chomping Commie?

Dear Eric

You always give a fine performance. Yesterday you told us with passion how you became a Conservative. It was a nice story, but does your claim to have a developed a “burning dislike of oppressive state bureaucracy” match the reality?

Do you remember localism? You did not mention it yesterday. The great localism project, you might recall, was launched on the twin platforms of the Big Society and Open Source Planning. The Big Society has slipped through the cracks of the political stage, but you enshrined localism in the Localism Act 2011.

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Opinion: Good news on affordable housing, but spare me the house builders’ crocodile tears – their share prices have doubled

Winning an extra £300m from the Treasury for affordable housing and tackling empty homes is good news by any standard (well done, Andrew Stunell, and thanks for all you did at DCLG). Moving forward on the £10 billion government guarantees for infrastructure spending is positive too. And if the Montague Review to encourage private renting is implemented, that’s proof patience can be rewarded…. I spent ten years on the London Assembly calling for both Labour and Conservative mayors to act. Back in June I had put housing at the heart of a four-point plan for a sustainable recovery. So it is great to see this issue come to the fore.

But forgive me for not believing the crocodile tears from developers about how they can’t afford to start work on ‘commercially unviable’ sites. The Times just revealed they’ve been quietly squirreling away land banks big enough for a quarter of a million homes. Not unviable, so much as slightly less massively profitable. Just look at their share prices. They’ve doubled over the last year even before the boost this announcement gave them (Taylor Wimpey up from 30p to 54p; Barratt up from 76p to 150p; Persimmon up from 425p to 700p). Yes, doubled. Not bumping along the bottom, like the rest of the economy.

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The Localism Act – Issues and Questions

Last Wednesday the LGiU and Bristol City Council collaborated to host a day conference on the Localism Act. Yesterday I introduced some of the main themes from the Government’s perspective, as set out by Andrew Stunell. As the conference progressed many issues and questions emerged. Today I identify those that particularly struck me. A broad message is that there remain significant challenges in effectively communicating to local communities the nature and extent of change.

The discussion of neighbourhood planning and neighbourhood forums highlighted quite how much of the Government’s Localism agenda relies on details yet to emerge. The imminent National …

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The Localism Act – over to you

Last Wednesday the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) collaborated with Bristol City Council to run a major one-day conference on the Localism Act, which is now rapidly moving towards implementation. The audience comprised primarily local authority elected members and senior officers. The conference was kicked off by Barbara Janke, the Liberal Democrat Leader of Bristol City Council. The day’s discussions were bookended by wide ranging presentations from Westminster Liberal Democrat politicians: Lord Shipley in the morning and Andrew Stunell, …

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That’s the way to do it! How Liberal Democrats made the running on the Localism Bill

Annette Brooke MP and Lord (Graham) Tope are the Lib Dem Co-Chairs of the Parliamentary Policy Committee on Communities and Local Government, and led the Lib Dem response to the Localism Bill. Here they outline what they, working with colleagues in the party and many beyond, helped achieve.

Last night the Localism Bill completed its final stage in Parliament and is set to become law when it achieves Royal Assent next week.

As Co-Chairs of the Parliamentary Policy Committee on Communities and Local Government, it has been our job over the last ten months to lead on the Bill for the party. We’ve helped shepherd it through both Houses of Parliament, and have led a Lib Dem team that in many ways has made the running on the Bill.

We’ve had strong engagement with Coalition ministers, who engaged with us constructively, particularly Greg Clark, Baroness Hanham and our very own Andrew Stunell, who was very helpful and willing to work together with us to improve the Bill considerably.

Colleagues in local government were also a constant source of help and good ideas, which never ceased to better inform our Bill team as the process went on.

Where we started from: “a good bill in theory, with several flaws in practice”

When it was first introduced, I think many Liberal Democrats would agree that it was a good bill in theory, with several flaws in practice.

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Stephen Gilbert MP writes: UK housing policy in crisis

Last year I was probably the only MP to be elected while still living with my parents. Of course, I’d moved out of home and, like many others, had to move back again. It’s a symptom of the fact that housing policy in the UK is in crisis. We have millions of people languishing on social housing waiting lists, first-time-buyers priced out of the market and in private rented sector tenants facing increased rents with decreased security of tenure and standards.

Let’s be clear: Governments of all hues have failed on housing and, frankly, the Coalition has barely begun to acknowledge …

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Julian Huppert MP writes: 20mph – A local say on local safety

Liberal Democrats are passionate about localism. We want decisions on local issues to stay where they belong. Giving towns and villages the ability to establish 20mph speed zones empowers local communities and allows them to set speeds that are best for local people.

Unfortunately, the system in place until recently focused much less on local government than on micromanagement from Westminster. The story of the parish council of Whiteshill & Ruscombe illustrates this well. The council representing these two Gloucestershire villages paid £1000 out of its own budget to have several “20 is plenty” signs set up. But Whitehall, working from …

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Opinion: Localism? They don’t know the meaning of the word!

Any Liberal Democrat will tell you he or she believes in localism. So it may be surprising that we have a ‘graveyard slot’ debate next Tuesday on what ought to be familiar territory.

What’s more, we are given to believe that the Coalition Government, despite what we always thought about the Tories, is also pursuing an aggressively localist agenda.

Up to a point, Lord Copper.

On a good day the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government does indeed talk the talk and walk the walk of devolving power. But he also has bad days. He has told councils that …

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Parliament to scrutinise government’s planning reforms

The Commons Communities and Local Government Committee has announced that it will be holding  two separate inquiries into aspects of the government’s local planning regime. One inquiry will examine the decision to abolish regional spatial strategies (RSS) and the other will review the coalition’s localism agenda. The abolition of the regional spatial strategies was one of the main measures featured in the coalition government’s Localism Bill, announced in the Queen’s Speech.

The inquiry into the abolition of regional spatial strategies will focus primarily on the implications for house building, in particular the implications of the abolition of regional house building …

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Andrew Stunell at the Local Government Association conference: putting our ideas into practice

Three months ago, if I had said that the Liberal Democrats would be in government, and I’d be a Minister in the Department for Communities and Local Government, you would have laughed at me. Yet here we are. I’ve fought no less than eight general elections and at the first seven, all we did was tell people what the Liberal Democrats would do if we got into power. This time we get to show them instead.

And with the Local Government Association Conference coming up this week, our priorities on local government will get their turn in the spotlight.

In …

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Opinion: Cameron’s vision for local government is bleak

Last week’s Local Government Association conference was addressed on its final day by three representatives from Westminster who’d made the journey northwards to Harrogate to face the serried ranks of senior local government councillors and officers.

The Lib Dems were represented by Vince Cable MP, given an early morning slot that not everyone got to. He was warmly received by all those who were there, in any case, which may represent that it was just the Lib Dem LGA group present. His speech covered his history as a councillor himself in the early 1970s when local government …

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