England & Wales

Conservative local government and localism proposals

The all time most popular post on this blog was this one on the Conservative’s localism green paper where we summarised Conservative policies.   The LGiU has welcomed the commitment to localism but we have been pushing hard for a wider perspective on what real localism is.  Our papers on primary justice – localising the criminal justice system, on the local approach to social care, and on a new localised approach to unemployment, have all engaged Conservative thinkers, including the many parliamentarians who have been involved.   It is great to see leading Conservatives in local government also highlighting these three major public policy challenges as the areas where an incoming government should adopt a new localist approach.    The most recent push comes in ‘The Magna Carta for Localism’ published by Colin Barrow, Eddie Lister and Stephen Greenhaulgh, the Leaders of Westminster, Wandsworth and Hammersmith and Fulham councils.   

The trio of influential Leaders argue for the creation of  ‘Foundation Councils’  that would have a new role on local unemployment, community care and crime: 

 Devolving powers to councils in these areas would mean that we could stop pretending that the jobless in North Shields have the same needs as those in Tunbridge Wells; that the social problems of Doncaster are the same as those of Harrogate; or that the local crime priorities in Brixton are the same as those in Newquay.      Each of these public services are currently provided by large, unelected and unaccountable public sector bodies. And yet in each of these areas, local delivery will be able to meet local needs better, will streamline and reduce the number of delivery agencies and will reduce costs.    To achieve this, some fundamental changes are required in the way local services are delivered.   Broadly these are:    Clear accountability.  Removing as many layers of competing bureaucracy as possible.   Creating financial systems that reward success in preventative work.   Encouraging strong local leadership and political direction based on clear and strong local accountability. 

The pamphlet is well worth a read if you want to know where the more ambitious localists in the Conservative ranks would like to go.