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Yet George Jones and John Stewart argue that true localism will not develop unless there is fundamental change in the working of central government. The development of the Localism Bill currently before parliament has been conditioned by the dominant centralist culture of central government — with the result that the Localism Bill could as well have been called the Centralism Bill.
As it stands, the bill contains a few provisions that entrench localism, neglects important financial arrangements between authorities and the centre, and fails to adequately face up to the relationship between decentralising to local authorities and decentralising to local communities and citizens. Proposals in the Bill give expression to localism and decentralisation to local authorities, but they are set within a framework that remains largely centralist.
Examples of localism in the Bill include:. While there are other examples of localism in the Bill, centralism is more dominant. For example:. The Local Government Association LGA has calculated there are at least order and regulation-making provisions in the Bill, in addition to the pages in the Act, with its clauses and 25 schedules.
We foresee the forthcoming Act being accompanied by a panoply of regulations and orders as well as by almost endless pages of guidance as the centre seeks to determine what should be done locally- rather than the local authority which knows local conditions and is locally accountable.
There is a huge gap in the Bill; a Localism Bill that lived up to its name would have dealt with the financing of local government. Centralism will prevail as long as local authorities are massively dependent for their resources on central government. They become supplicants for funding from central government rather than engaging in a dialogue with their citizens about local priorities. Currently, through the complex procedures and calculations laid down, the Secretary of State will effectively decide whether the rate of council tax proposed by an authority is excessive, thus triggering a referendum.
A genuine Localism Bill would rebalance local government finance by giving local authorities more ability to levy taxes. Local authorities could then draw the bulk of their resources from their own voters with taxes whose rates they determine. Centralism pervades central government in forming its attitudes and determining its procedures and practices, and there are many examples of this attitude even in the Department of Communities and Local Government which is sponsoring the Bill.
These duties may be sensible for authorities but it should be for local authorities to decide. The centralism implicit in the accepted ministerial role is well illustrated by the letter sent by Bob Neill, a junior CLG minister, to all local authority leaders informing them they should provide an effective refuse collection even in difficult circumstances, as if they were unaware or incapable of doing so.
Ministers often believe they must act even when matters could and should be left to local authorities to deal with. Measures are required to entrench localism, but a statute is not enough to secure change; procedures for monitoring and enforcement are also needed.
A unit in the Cabinet Office could be established to monitor the operation of the principles of central and local government relations that should be set out in the statute and ensure its application by different departments. Even more effective would be establishing a joint committee of the two houses of parliament with responsibility for monitoring central-local relations in accordance with localism principles, reporting to parliament both annually and on specific proposals.
Without such changes localism will remain a topic that is more spoken about than acted on. The Government has not clarified the relationship as between these two approaches to decentralization although it appears it sees the relationship being determined by detailed regulation rather than by local authorities working with communities. But there are many issues to be faced in relation to decentralization to communities. What is a community? Is decentralisation about only communities of place or does it include those of background, interest and need as well?
What if more than one group claims to be the sole expression of the community? Problems could arise if these issues are not resolved as decentralisation to communities develops. Unrepresentative community groups could arise, dominated by a few individuals and sectional interests. There could be little accountability of groups to local people.
Early enthusiasm in the community could be eroded over time and individuals sustaining the group could leave the area. The requirements for open government could be ignored. Financial irregularities could occur, and conflicts may arise between the local authority and community groups, unless the relationship is clear, close and productive of a shared understanding.
While disagreements are inevitable the danger is they can lead to sustained conflicts which could undermine not merely localism but the aspirations of the Big Society. These kinds of difficulties can be resolved only by placing responsibility for involving and empowering communities on local authorities, who can work with the community in resolving these kinds of issues.
Local community groups can be essential for scrutiny of local government and articulating views but decisions about local areas should ultimately be taken by locally elected officials, rather than by unelected community groups that may have sectional or unrepresentative points of view.
Decentralising local-government financing and better managing the relationship between decentralisation to local authorities and decentralisation to community groups are essential. Localism will not develop unless central government itself changes, yet there is no sign in the Bill that such change is likely. If localism is to develop, central government will have to learn new ways.
A typical view from a group of London councils, much quoted in the House of Commons, is that the […]. If different areas are to be given […]. Click here to cancel reply. Email address:. Experts analyse and debate recent developments across UK government, politics and policy. Facebook Facebook. Localism and centralism in the Bill Proposals in the Bill give expression to localism and decentralisation to local authorities, but they are set within a framework that remains largely centralist.
Examples of localism in the Bill include: The proposed general power of competence , which would give local authorities the ability to act in the best interests of their communities, even if specific legislation does not give those authorities the power to take the action they intend.
The repeal of provisions in the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act which specify in great detail how local authorities should deal with petitions. These provisions were a classic example of centralism in which it was assumed that those in central government who did not have to deal with local petitions knew better how to deal with them than local authorities.
For example: The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government will decide whether the expenditure proposed by a local authority is excessive and a local referendum is held. The Secretary of State has indicated that twelve large cities must hold referendums on elected mayors even though their councils have not decided to hold one and their citizens have not sought one- even though only 5 per cent of the electorate have to sign a petition to secure a referendum.
One would expect a competent authority to be able to determine its own internal political arrangements. Local authorities must consider whether an expression of interest by a community group, in providing one or more of its services, would promote or improve social, economic and environmental well-being. But it can be rejected only on grounds to be specified by the Secretary of State by regulation. Local finances — a neglected, but essential, element There is a huge gap in the Bill; a Localism Bill that lived up to its name would have dealt with the financing of local government.
A challenge to centralism Centralism pervades central government in forming its attitudes and determining its procedures and practices, and there are many examples of this attitude even in the Department of Communities and Local Government which is sponsoring the Bill. Moving localism forward? March 11th, Localism and the Big Society 3 Comments. Previous post Next post.
Localism Act 2011
Despite the role of devolution and local government , the UK is still largely a centralized state. Localism is based on the premiss that local communities differ in terms of what their needs and requirements are. In this sense one size does not fit all. Central government is not seen as in the best position to determine what local needs are or how services should be delivered. Localism also aims to promote greater accountability.
Localism and decentralization
The Localism Act c. The aim of the act is to facilitate the devolution of decision-making powers from central government control to individuals and communities. The official summary of the act is: . To make provision about the functions and procedures of local and certain other authorities; to make provision about the functions of the Local Commission for Administration in England; to enable the recovery of financial sanctions imposed by the Court of Justice of the European Union on the United Kingdom from local and public authorities; to make provision about local government finance; to make provision about town and country planning, the Community Infrastructure Levy and the authorisation of nationally significant infrastructure projects; to make provision about social and other housing; to make provision about regeneration in London; and for connected purposes. Although the act was envisaged as having the potential to bring about wide-scale decentralisation , there have been few significant examples of its implementation. Mayor of Hackney Jules Pipe criticised it, saying that it "does not challenge the deep-rooted centralisation in the UK".
Decentralisation and Localism Bill: the key points
The Decentralisation and Localism Bill will be published this afternoon. It is likely to contain the following proposals:. Whilst this is a significant set of changes, it is not a complete freeing of local government. Their finances are still subject to a subsequent review. In the meantime DCLG will retain reserved powers over any changes to local government taxation. The values of people are likely to mean they some people are more motivated to take a more active approach to change things, whilst some see then more as a defensive right to be exercised to save an existing facility.
Decentralisation and the Localism Bill: an essential guide