Localism in organising communities


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  • A year and a half into the coalition’s tenure, the language of government policy has settled down a bit, although it’s unlikely that we’ll ever see complete agreement on usage.
    Broadly, however,
    ‘Big Society’ is understood as the Prime Minister’s vision for what he thinks the nation should look like
    ‘localism’ is the policy by which he believes his vision can be delivered
    ‘decentralisation’ is the strategy by which he believes all government departments should be implementing this policy
  • The Big Society is the government’s vision for what they believe this country should be like.
    It's an outcome, or category of outcomes, that will be assessed at some future time according to the successful – or otherwise – implementation of the three strands outlined by the Prime Minister, namely
    a new culture of voluntarism, philanthropy, social action, or 'what we can do for each other'
    public service reform – getting rid of centralised bureaucracy that wastes money and undermines morale, and opening up public services to new providers like charities, social enterprises and private companies, or 'what the government can do for us'
    community empowerment – neighbourhoods taking charge of their own destiny, who feel if they club together and get involved they can shape the world around them, or 'what we can do for ourselves'
    The government has broadened out the language of ‘third’ sector’ or ‘voluntary and community’ sector to talk about ‘Civil Society’ which Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society, defines as “people acting together, alongside or independently of the state or market, to make a positive difference to their lives or the lives of others.”
    Civil Society organisations may be informal groups of individuals, co-operatives, mutuals, social enterprises or large national charities.
    David Cameron – Big Society speech:
    Nick Hurd on ‘Civil Society’ – see footnote 1:
  • There is no universally accepted definition of localism, but there is general agreement that it means something like “the devolution of decision making power to the lowest practicable level at which it can be exercised”.
    In government terms, then, localism means devolving decision making power wherever possible from central government in Whitehall to local government (town hall), and beyond that – again, where possible – to local communities (village hall), small groups of people in neighbourhoods and even individual service users.
  • Decentralisation of decision making has led – or is leading – to a wide range of decisions being devolved from central government to local councils and local communities, of which these are only a few examples.
    Some see this as proof of the government’s commitment to decentralisation.
    Others see it as the government trying to avoid taking responsibility for unpopular spending cuts by passing decision making power to local areas whether they want it or not.
  • Fundamental to the government's policy agenda is the Localism Act which received Royal Assent on 15 November 2011.
    This Act is intended to
    deliver new powers for councils
    deliver new rights for local people and communities
    restore democratic and local control over planning, as set out in the draft National Planning Policy Framework
    make housing fairer and more democratic
    create incentives for economic growth
    NAVCA resources on the Localism Act:
    Localism Act – full text:
    Plain English Guide to the Localism Act:
    The five key measures in the Localism Act:
    Localism Act receives Royal Assent:
    NAVCA Chief Executive and others respond to the Localism Act:
  • This Act is intended to transfer power from Whitehall to local councils and communities. This will free councils to act in the best interests of their area through, among other measures, a 'general power of competence'.
    There will be new directly elected mayors in the 12 major English cities and others cities and towns who may want one, subject to local referendums in May 2012.
    (It is interesting to note that Doncaster MBC, having had an elected Mayor for three years, has now voted by 45 to 5 in favour of holding a referendum to abolish the position.)
    There will be an option for councils to abandon the cabinet structure and return to the committee system should they wish to, as Nottinghamshire Council intends to do. (Committee systems have been allowed only in councils with fewer than 85,000 residents since the Local Government Act 2000 imposed the model of cabinets taking decisions, with backbenchers on overview and scrutiny bodies.)
    Date set for elected mayor referendums:
    Doncaster to vote on scrapping mayor – LGC article:
    Nottinghamshire set to restore committees – LGC article:
  • The Act is intended to deliver new rights for local people and communities: to challenge service delivery; to have a better opportunities to bid for community assets such as libraries, pubs and shops when these come up for sale; and a right to veto excessive council tax rises.
    Minister for Decentralisation Greg Clark has given assurances that the government's definition of communities is not limited to communities 'of place' but includes what he calls 'virtual' and 'causal' communities – those non-geographic communities of identity, of need, of interest with which we're very familiar
    Greg Clark on 'virtual' and 'causal' communities:
  • The Act is intended to restore democratic and local control over planning, as set out in the draft National Planning Policy Framework.
    This Framework creates a presumption in favour of sustainable development
    The CLG Select Committee has called for the document to be redrafted giving equal weighting to economic, social and environmental considerations.
    Localism Act and Planning Policy resources:
  • The Act is intended to make housing fairer and more democratic by returning decision-making powers on housing to local councils and communities; and to put councils in charge of allocation and tenure of social housing, giving councils the flexibility to use their social housing stock to the maximum effect and reduce waiting lists.
  • The Act is intended to create incentives for economic growth - give local government a stronger financial stake in the local economy, so it is more entrepreneurial and attracts local business by allowing local authorities to grant discretionary business rate discounts; making small business tax breaks easier to take advantage of; giving affected businesses a greater say in rate supplements.
    While the government intends to allow councils to retain part of their local business rates, proposals in the Local Government Finance Bill will enable the government to keep a ‘set aside’ portion for redistribution.
    Eric Pickles announces business rates reforms:
    Local Government Finance Bill:
    Neill defends continuing Treasury cash grab – LGC article:
  • Localism in organising communities

    1. 1. Localism an introduction 1
    2. 2. The government’s programme: • the vision: Big Society • the policy: localism • the strategy: decentralisation 2
    3. 3. Big Society • not a programme • an outcome • 3 strands: – voluntarism, philanthropy and social action – public service reform – community empowerment • “Civil Society” and “Civil Society organisations” 3
    4. 4. Localism 4
    5. 5. Decentralisation Planning: local plans Education: free schools Public Buildings: assets of community value Police: elected commissioners Cuts: local implementation Local government: elected mayors Public Services: right to challenge Health: GP consortia 5
    6. 6. “The time has come to disperse power more widely in Britain today” (Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, Coalition Agreement, May 2010) “Trying to improve people’s lives by imposing decisions, setting targets and demanding inspections from Whitehall simply doesn’t work…it leaves people feeling “done to” and imposed upon” (Plain English Guide to Localism Bill, January 2011) 6
    7. 7. The Government’s “six actions of decentralisation” 7
    8. 8. Localism Bill aims to introduce: • New freedoms and flexibilities for local government • New rights and powers for communities and individuals • Reform to make the planning system more democratic and effective • Reform to ensure that decisions about housing are taken locally 8
    9. 9. New freedoms and flexibility for local government • General power of competence – Local Authorities are free to do anything (providing they don’t break the law) • Abolition of the centrally prescribed Standards Board regime to oversee the behaviour of Councillors – But to ‘deliberately withhold or misrepresent a personal interest’ becomes a criminal offence • Clarifying the rules on predetermination • Directly elected mayors – In 12 largest cities 9
    10. 10. New rights and powers for communities • Community right to challenge – Giving voluntary & community groups a right to express an interest in taking over the running of a local service – local authority must then consider • Community right to bid – When ‘assets of community value’ come up for sale, community groups will have time to develop a bid • Local referendums • Right to veto excessive Council Tax rises 10
    11. 11. Reform to social housing policy • Social housing tenure reform – End to ‘lifetime tenancies’ • Social housing allocations reform – Only those qualifying for social housing can go on the waiting list • Reform of homelessness legislation – Enabling councils the use of private sector rented homes to meet homelessness crisis • Reform of council housing finance – Councils can now keep the rent they raise • National homeswap scheme • Reform of social housing regulation 11
    12. 12. Reform to the planning system • • • • • • • • • Abolition of regional strategies Duty to cooperate Nationally significant infrastructure projects Requirement to consult communities before submitting very large planning applications Reform the way local plans are made Strengthening enforcement rules Neighbourhood planning Community right to build Reforming the community infrastructure levy 12
    13. 13. Reform to the planning system (cont.) • Neighbourhood planning – Right for communities to draw up a ‘neighbourhood development plan’ (but needs to be within national planning policy and Local Development Framework) – Local planning authorities will be required to give technical advice and support – Neighbourhood planning ‘vanguards’ to test this idea in practice 13
    14. 14. Reform to the planning system (cont.) • Community right to build As part of neighbourhood planning, groups of local people can bring forward small developments • Reforming the community infrastructure levy (s106 agreements) - Levy can now also be used to ‘maintain’ infrastructure - Some of the money raised to go directly to the neighbourhoods where development takes place 14
    15. 15. Localism Act • new powers for councils • new rights for local people and communities – includes ‘virtual’ and ‘causal’ communities – Minister of State for Decentralisation Greg Clark • planning reform • make housing fairer and more democratic • incentives for economic growth 15
    16. 16. Localism Act • new powers for councils – – – – decentralisation general power of competence elected mayors return to committee system • Doncaster votes for referendum to abolish elected Mayor • Nottinghamshire returning to committee structure 16
    17. 17. Localism Act • new rights for local people and communities – right to challenge – assets of community value – council tax rise veto 17
    18. 18. Localism Act • planning reform – democratic and local control • National Planning Policy Framework • presumption in favour of sustainable development • Select Committee calls for redraft 18
    19. 19. Localism Act • make housing fairer and more democratic – local decision making – local control of social housing 19
    20. 20. Localism Act • incentives for economic growth – give councils more stake in local economy – business rate discounts – tax breaks – rate supplements • Local Government Finance Bill 20
    21. 21. We have been here before? 21
    22. 22. Familiar language • ‘local’; ‘localism’; ‘choice’; ‘community’; ‘accountability’; ‘freedom’; ‘decentralisation’; BUT A wide range of views about what this means in practice for local government; elected members and the ‘communities’ they represent. 22
    23. 23. What’s in a word? -‘community’ Different meanings under different parts of the Act (and the wider localism agenda) •Community Right to Challenge •Neighbourhood Planning •Community Right to Bid •Applications for Free Schools •Academy conversions. 23
    24. 24. Different views of ‘Localism’ “ I think it is reasonable that councils shouldn’t use their new found freedom to saddle up the horses, arm their citizens and invade France. Apart from that, the world will be your oyster”. Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government. Local Government Association Conference, July 2010. 24
    25. 25. Different Views of ‘Localism’ ‘The Localism Act is conditioned by the dominant centralist culture of central government… it could as well have been called the Centralism Act’ George Jones & John Stewart ‘The World will be your Oyster’ Reflections on ‘The Localism Act 2011’ 25
    26. 26. Henry VIII Clauses • These allow a Minister to use regulations to create new laws which have the same force as Acts of Parliament but which don’t undergo the same rigorous process. • Localism Bill peppered with HVIII clauses. 26
    27. 27. Future accountability? Members? Service 4 (national charity) National Trustees Indicators? Regulator? Service 1 (national firm) User Service 2 (local voluntary) Local board / trustee Shareholders Service 3 (local firm) Sole Owner 27
    28. 28. • Gamlingay community‐led initiative – providing youth, employment, and community services • ‐ See more at: http://mycommunityrights.org.uk/case‐ studies/gamlingay/#sthash.8GbyJ78V.dpuf 28
    29. 29. • St James Care provide housing, and core and support services to vulnerable people in Southampton • See more at: http://mycommunityrights.org.uk/case‐studies/st‐james‐care/#sthash.y3J4bb3e.dpuf 29
    30. 30. • Himmat – working with young people • Established in 1991, Himmat has expanded from its Halifax base, where it started out by focussing on the needs of young people from the South Asian community, to deliver services else‐where in West Yorkshire. • ‐ See more at: http://mycommunityrights.org.uk/case‐studies/case‐study‐ 6/#sthash.yN3plHu2.dpuf 30
    31. 31. • Asian Development Association of Bury (ADAB) is a community organisation which currently operates from three locations situated in some of the most deprived areas within Bury • Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service is funding and providing support to ADAB to create a Community Fire Prevention Networkto engage with hard to reach communities, and private and voluntary business sectors within Bury and Rochdale areas • See more at: http://mycommunityrights.org.uk/case‐studies/greater‐manchester‐fire‐and‐rescue‐ service/#sthash.PjabcEhJ.dpuf 31
    32. 32. • Lambeth Council – a co‐operative council giving businesses and the community the chance to run youth services • ‐ See more at: http://mycommunityrights.org.uk/case‐studies/lambeth‐ council/#sthash.wqAQ81Ie.dpuf 32