Localism in London - London School of Economics and Political

Report
Talk by Michael Ward
LSE London Seminar
18 March 2013
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1889
1899
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1935
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1960
1963
1986
1990
2000
2011
Creation of London County Council
Creation of Metropolitan Boroughs;
Abolition of parish vestries in LCC area
Last parish council in outer London
abolished (North Ockendon)
Herbert Commission Report
London Government Act
Creation of boroughs, GLC & ILEA
Abolition of GLC
Abolition of ILEA
Creation of GLA and mayoralty
Localism Act
Localism=
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A body of ideas
Legislation – the Localism Act 2011
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…overlain by whimsy, nostalgia and
romanticism..
“London became a greater and still greater
accumulation of towns, an immense colony of
dwellings where the people still live in their
own houses in small communities, with local
governments, just as they had done in the
Middle Ages”
(Rasmussen, London The Unique City,
1934)
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Herbert Commission – LSE Scheme B: ‘Met
Counties’ with population of 1 – 1.5 million each
+ ‘urban parishes’ “with limited executive and
certain advisory functions”
“The urban parishes would represent
neighbourhoods or communities in Greater
London which have a real sense of communities
and still have some of the characteristics of a
village embedded in a town.”
(Herbert Report, para 737)
But not accepted….
London Boroughs-
“London boroughs are too small for the big
things (organising services that require scale
economies to function effectively) and too big
for the small things (people have a sense of
connection to Neasden, Norwood or New Cross
not to the London Borough that organises their
refuse collection and collects their council
tax). –
(Borough Chief Executive)
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‘Double Devolution’ – 2006 report by Mulgan
& others – proposed “a 10-year programme
to shift power downwards: from Whitehall and
Westminster down to town halls, and from
town halls to communities and citizens.”
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Empowerment White Paper – ‘Communities in
Control’ – 2007: “We want to shift power,
influence and responsibility away from
existing centres of power into the hands of
communities and individual citizens.”
(Cm 7427 2007)
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Coalition Agreement 2010:
“The Government believes that it is time for a
fundamental shift of power from Westminster to
people. We will promote decentralisation and
democratic engagement, and we will end the era of
top-down government by giving new powers to local
councils,
communities,
neighbourhoods
and
individuals. We will promote the radical devolution of
power and greater financial autonomy to local
government and community groups. This will include
a review of local government ˆ
finance. “
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“Labour should back localism because the time is
right, it’s the way in which we can get the most out of
the money we have, and because it will help to renew
trust in politics.”
(Hilary Benn, Shadow CLG Secretary, 7
March 2013)
Localism the new conventional wisdom
“It will be convenient to have a name for the ideas
which are esteemed at any time for their
acceptability, and it should be a term that
emphasizes this predictability. I shall refer to these
ideas henceforth as the conventional wisdom.”
(JK Galbraith, The Affluent Society, 1958)
London Government
 Transfer of LDA and London HCA to Mayor
 Mayor becomes Police Authority
 Power to set up Development Corporations
 Scope for further devolution from Whitehall
London Boroughs
 General power of competence;
 “ a local authority has power to do anything
that individuals generally may do”;
 Longstanding local government demand;
 But without resources…
 Limited use of previous ‘wellbeing’ power.
Community rights:
 Community right to challenge
 Community right to bid for assets of
community value
 Community right to build
Neighbourhood Plans
 Neighbourhood plans can be drawn up by
neighbourhood forums or parish councils
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Right to set up parish councils in London reestablished by the Local Government and
Public Involvement in Health Act 2007;
Can be called parish, neighbourhood, village
or community councils;
Government consulted in 2012 on simplifying
procedure for setting up new parishes;
Eric Pickles: parish councils are “localism’s
magic wand”.
1 London parish so far approved by local
referendum – Queen’s Park in Westminster;
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First Queen’s Park elections in 2014, at same
time as Borough elections
Other London parishes in pipeline:
Bermondsey & Bankside (Southwark)
London Fields (Hackney)
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Major strengthening of city government
1999 GLA Act judged a success by 2004
2007 GLA Act extended Mayoral powers over
housing, planning, waste and skills
From 1986 to 2000, London was the only
English region without a strategic planning
framework – now it is the only one with such
a framework
Limitations:
- resources
- executive capacity/delivery
Issues:
 Yes, but is a strong city authority really
localism within the meaning of the Act?
 Strong city government traditionally the
argument of the left
 Could the Mayor/GLA settlement deliver the
strategic authority the GLC was supposed to
be?
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Neighbourhood plans:
“will allow communities, both residents, employees
and business, to come together through a local
parish council or neighbourhood forum and say
where they think new houses, businesses and
shops should go – and what they should look like.”
(CLG)
 Can be prepared by a forum or parish council;
 Will get some of CIL money
 But – must comply with borough and London Plan
Considerable interest in London:
Neighbourhood planning in London: area or forum designated:
Brent
Sudbury Town
Camden
Highgate
Ealing
Ealing Central
West Ealing
K&C
Norland
Sutton
Hackbridge
Plus 20 more applications for designation submitted
Plus 32 more expressions of interest
But: November 2012 – 50% of boroughs reported no interest
Nationally -
first Neighbourhood Plan approved by local referendum in
Eden Valley, Cumbria, 7 March 2013
Examples:
 Dartmouth Park, Camden
- at expression of interest stage
- voted 88-1 in Feb 2013 to establish
forum
 Stamford Hill, Hackney
- 2 competing bids
- “This approach would work in a country
village, but here you have real divisions.”
Too soon to judge?
 Clearly mobilizing great involvement
 Early days - no London Neighbourhood Plan
yet approved
 Key ambiguity – designed to facilitate
development? Or to prevent development?
 Limited resources available to forums;
 Little scope to protect communities from
social and economic change;
 Little scope to address crisis in affordable
housing.
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Rights to challenge, to bid, to build
Little activity in London so far
Community group in Nunhead, Southwark,
succeeded in getting local pub listed as an
‘asset of community value’
Now trying to bid (but have to raise
£750,000)
Campaign groups in other boroughs trying to
get assets listed
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Local authorities have often been remote,
insensitive, bureaucratic…
All change in London Government has been
dominated by the remorseless logic of economies
of scale;
Vestries, parishes, Metropolitan Boroughs, Urban
District Councils – all swept away;
So empowerment, double devolution, parishes,
neighbourhood planning, community rights are
an overdue step in the other direction
But
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These changes are not an answer to how you
govern London;
Localism is not the most interesting or
important thing happening in London
government
The London agenda:
 Demographic change
 The world city narrative
 Strengthened city government
 Boroughs preoccupied with spending cuts
 Continued pressure for big ticket
infrastructure (X Rail 1& 2; HS2; Thames
Tideway Tunnel Sewer, etc.)
 Resources for London
The slow death of local government finance
 Failure to act on Layfield
 De facto adoption of centralist option
 Long term movement of services (income
support, health) to centre;
 Drift of tax base to London and South East
 Council tax capping
 Can you have real localism without a buoyant
local government finance system?
 Risk of London solving its problems at the
expense of the rest of England?
 Possibility of a set of services administered, but
not funded, by local government.
Thanks to the following, who provided
information and comments, but are not
responsible for any mistakes:
Sue Brownill
Michael Edwards
Neil McInroy
Max Nathan
Barry Quirk
Dick Sorabji
David Walker

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