Coffee House

Labour’s localism arms race

1 July 2014

How can politicians encourage this country’s economy to grow more evenly? Do you build a nice big railway line? Or try – and largely fail – to devolve greater power to cities using directly-elected city mayors? Today Labour sets out its answer in Lord Adonis’ growth review. Ed Miliband has already said that he will accept the central recommendation, which is to allow city and country regions to create combined authorities (like the Greater Manchester combined authority) which will gain control over all, rather than half, the revenue from business rates.

George Osborne was making similar noises recently about greater powers for regional groups headed by elected mayors. There is, of course, the question of whether local electorates will back these mayors – they largely didn’t when asked whether they wanted directly-elected city mayors – but both main parties are still keen on localism and still see devolving power as a key way of solving the problem of Planet London vs the rest of the UK. And of course if you are promising Scottish people still more powers if they do not back independence in September, then it is only right that other parts of the UK are included in that discussion about devolution.

Now that devolution is in vogue, the main parties are engaged in a kind of localism arms race, in which they promise that they’ll be the party that really trusts people, and that really gives power to the individual. We’ve already seen that emerging on planning. Now it’s spreading.

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  • RoadrunnerNick

    Where I live, the district council refuses to transfer assets freehold to the town councils that had them before the local government reorganisation of 1974.

  • Mr_Ominous

    Labour’s localism plan is about dissolving England as a country and creating one party city states that Labour will be in control of since Labour would find it very hard to govern an England with it’s own parliament. The real point of having localism though is it is an EU policy. Three quarters of all EU legislation is implemented by local councils or regional bodies. A national parliament while in the EU isn’t needed anymore. Localism will be an illusion since it is merely shifting the centre from Westminster to receive diktats from Brussels.

  • El_Sid

    We’ve already seen that emerging on planning.

    Trouble is that a lot of the planning localism is at best illusory, and in some cases has been going in reverse as the centre takes ever more influence with things like regional building targets. What happens when the centre says “Region X must build 50k houses per year for the next 5 years” but the individual towns in region X refuse to allow their “share” to be built?

    There’s a lot of that kind of thing going on at the moment.

  • Mynydd

    There is a major difference between Conservatives and Labour in what to do in respect to the country outside London.. Labour will take money out of Westminster/London and distribute it around the regions for them to decide how it’s spent. Conservative policy is the tell the regions what Westminster will do for them, like we will build for you, in years to come, a nice new HS3 railway, just like in the USSR when Stalin decided where railways were built.

    • Smithersjones2013

      Labour will take money out of Westminster/London and distribute it around the regions for them to decide how it’s spent.

      Nonsense. You mean Labour will take money out of predominantly Tory areas and give it to Labour areas. Just check PESA. It is those areas which are traditionally Tory (SE, East, E Midlands and South West) which have the lowest PESA per head expenditure.

      As for London that rose from the 5th largest PESA expenditure to 2nd under Livingstone. Labour don’t take money out of their urban ghettos and London is one of them.

      PS Oh and that doesn’t change under the Tories either and never has

    • Inverted Meniscus

      That wY we can run up another £168 billion structural deficit courtesy of the fascist Labour Party.

      • Mynydd

        After 4 years why are we still running a deficit of £100bn?

        • Inverted Meniscus

          Because the government is a coalition and cannot make the necessary cuts to public expenditure needed to clear the deficit more quickly. Labour has opposed every single cut that has been made and so it is safe to assume that if they had been in power we would still have economic stagnation and an even larger deficit. Are you in favour of larger cuts? And don’t waste every ones time with the suggestion that the Tories should have won a majority. They didn’t and so they have to do what is possible rather than dishonest Labour scum like yourself.

    • Mr_Ominous

      If we have true localism London will keep more (or all) of the tax revenue generated there. The whole point of localism is centralised redistribution of money stops and local areas live off what they generate in taxes in their area.

  • Mr Creosote

    ” How can politicians encourage this country’s economy to grow more evenly? Do you build a nice big railway line? Or try – and largely fail – to devolve greater power to cities using directly-elected city mayors?”

    Nope…you put super high speed broadband into every house and business in the land.

    • Blindsideflanker

      Indeed. Our economic growth was built on canals, railways, roads, national postal service, air transport, telegraph, telephone and telex. Our myopic political class rather than investing in the 21st century equivalent of the canals, the superfast broadband, seek to pour all our money into the 19th answer, railways. What plonkers.

      • BarkingAtTreehuggers

        Erhm – I’ve got 100 gig broadband. Next.

        • Blindsideflanker

          We don’t even have mobile phone coverage.

          • BarkingAtTreehuggers

            Hehe, yes, nor do I – isn’t that weird?
            I have 100mpbs broadband but no mobile coverage!

            Another cartel to be broken up has been identified today, by you.

            • Blindsideflanker

              Sit in the middle of the Masai Mara game park in Kenya and you will get a good mobile phone signal. But sitting here on the Hampshire Wiltshire border, nope.

              So which is the third world country?

              • BarkingAtTreehuggers

                As I said: you said it mate, not me.

              • Inverted Meniscus

                Yes but you do live in the most beautiful place in the World so what’s to worry about!

        • Mr Creosote

          Lucky ba#tard.. what about the other 90% of the country!

          • BarkingAtTreehuggers

            Do 90% of the country have the best private school in the city right outside their door?
            Do they have an opera house and a concert hall 2 miles down the road?
            Do they have three national train stations and one international airport >20m passengers per annum within a five mile radius?

            Do you demand Orkney be connected up first?

  • LeftFooterRightWing

    Large numbers of local authorities, particularly those centred around the northern cities and under labour control are third world in both intelligence and competence. The idea of devolving greater levels of financial responsibility is a horror story in waiting.

    • Mynydd

      That’s not Mr Osborne said, he was full of praise for what Labour controlled Manchester has done. The people of Manchester must think the same as I understand there is only one Conservative councillor.

    • Mr_Ominous

      The northern cities are one party states for Labour. In fact all our big cities are one party states for Labour thanks to the welfare class they have built up over the decades and their imported voter base. Certainly you are correct about the north being like the third world. The north is the central reason we have a huge deficit in spending. They vote Labour “because their dad did” or because they don’t want to “betray their local history of voting Labour”. They are economically illiterate. They want a socialist dictatorship.

    • Tom M

      The template for which might be considered to be Tower Hamlets.

  • allymax bruce

    Hi Isabel, this latest in Labour Party policy, is the horrific continuance of Blairite policy; devolved ownership of responibility to local authority, (LA), while funnelling more powers from LA, to Central (Authority) Government.
    I call it Inverse-Convergent Policymaking. (All Rights Reserved to allymax).

  • Smithersjones2013

    Taking power from local authorities and centralising it in regional authorities is not localism (the centralising is a big hint) it is just more centralisation (and perhaps the much despised EU regionalisation wrapped up in new clothes).

    For localism to work it has to involve a cascade of power down the political structures from Brussels to Westminster from Westminster to Counties/ Unitaries and from them to local authorities. That clearly is not happening what you have is centralists in Westminster handing powers up to Brussels (despite all the posturing) and centralising further what remains of domestic power. That they give these new centralised organisations additional does not fix the problem unless they have tohe power to spend that money as they will.

    Until such time as there is a coherent holistic devolution plan any self respecting localist should treat these pathetic piecemeal meddlings by the centralists in Westminster as destructive to our democracy and to competent public sector administration .

    PS Has it occurred to the Westminster Freaks that if they persisted in handing powers upwards to Brussels and downnwards to regional authorities eventually there will be nothing left for Westminster to do. National Government will be surplus to needs. Now who is it that wants to do away with national government across Europe?

    • Tony_E

      It’s certainly a route to draw control over rural areas into metropolitan centres.

      • Smithersjones2013

        Or alternatively to water down urban socialist and liberal ghettoes with vast numbers of sensible tory types…..

        • Mr_Ominous

          Labour is proposing city regions which will be one party states for Labour excluding the rural tory voters who would have their own combined authorities. Regionalisation of England is an EU directive and would be convenient for Labour since they probably would find it difficult to govern an England with it’s own parliament which is why Labour wants city regions it will dominate.

  • swatnan

    Its a great sign of maturity that when you get power, you give it away.
    Lets have people dong things for themselves instead of having things done for them or to them; thats the co-operative way.

    • Smithersjones2013

      Whilst i agree with the sentiment what do you do if individuals want to give their power away to a larger authority? Is that still a sign of maturity?

      • Wessex Man

        no it’s not, it’s like giving up all your power to the EU!

        • Smithersjones2013

          Whilst I have sympathy with that view the problem comes when there are things that are only achievable by the group. For example is it realistic for everybody to provide their own health care physically or should we give that ‘power’ away to a doctor and the group pay for his services?

          There are times when it is more efficient to give power away to a the group. In government terms is it better to have a national army or a series of regional armies all responsible for their own path? Similarly border control, foreign poiicy etc etc?

          Now unquestionably power is over-centralised in the extreme in this country and across the EU but nevertheless there are powers that are best kept more centrally in some cases. Its a case of optimising power to ensure the most efficient use of it. Now without question there are a number of areas where national government is the most efficient place for power to reside although I struggle though to think of an area where continental centralisation would benefit our islands

          • Colonel Mustard

            I think that you might be confusing power with protection. The state is responsible for protecting the realm with a military, navy, border control, foreign policy, etc., but that does not translate into the sort of top-down control of society that modern British politicians seem to think they are responsible for. Regionalisation is de facto centralisation, as others have noted, because it involves the consolidation of local authorities and creates more distance between local communities and centres of government.

            Politicians in Britain are supposed to represent their communities but they don’t. In addition to their tendency to think in terms of controlling us rather than representing us the whipping system and selection of candidates is skewed towards party control rather than community representation. In addition communities are confused with lobby and pressure groups, sometimes wilfully. Regionalisation won’t change that but just increase it.

            In my lifetime this has changed remarkably. As a boy the village I lived in organised life with little or no interference from government. Events were held self-sufficiently and the local policeman, who lived in the village, maintained order with no centralised dictats. There was no concern for litigious risk. Accidents were treated as accidents and the police and aid authorities treated them pragmatically as such. The amount of top down officialdom and red tape has increased prodigiously and yet “progressives” talk as though we are more liberated. We are not.

    • Colonel Mustard

      Doesn’t work like that though. The power goes to vested interest elites, often controlled by the three main parties or satellites of other political organisations/agendas. A clue is in the widespread acceptance of parachuting candidates into safe seats and all-women shortlists (for example).

      We now have that ghastly harpy and her ‘mumsnet’ gang setting up a petition to alter PMQs. Who do they represent and what gives them a mandate to interfere in parliamentary procedures? That certainly isn’t localism and with 97% female participation in ‘mumsnet’ it doesn’t represent any equality of representation based on communities.

      With regionalisation the same kind of Chicago-school political activists would gravitate in with their UN and EU sponsored agendas and group think jargon. Far from devolving power it would just impose more of the same power by other means.

  • HookesLaw

    No doubt the ideas from all parties are ell meant – althoiugh more perhaps in the vein of ‘we must do something’ than anything else. However my opiniion is it’s a question of fiddle with local government at your peril.
    I do not have much faith in local govt to do anything and this govt is busy cutting local govt payrolls. The notion that local govt can create growth is fancuful to be. Indeed I can see where through interfering planning restrictions it hinders growth.

    • Smithersjones2013

      So you don’t believe that by giving local authorities the ability to compete with each other (and in doing so create growth) will work? An interesting denouncement of free market principles. Your red underwear is showing again Hooky!

      There again you do seem to favour control-freakery and all things centralist.

      • southerner

        It’s because he’s a socialist Camerloon. It’s what they do.

      • Mynydd

        Mr Osborne said that the free market is not working in the North of England hence he is stepping in to make it work

        • Smithersjones2013

          The free market doesn’t exist and hasn’t for centuries….

  • Amir
  • Cooper1992

    Notice how the word ‘England’ is not mentioned in any of these reviews. It’s okay for the Scots and Welsh to delve into nationalism – that’s healthy, and of course we have the British-loving Londoners.

    However England simply must not remain united. Split it up with majors, great authorities, and the North-South divide so that the European Union and the three Unionist parties can carve it up even further. Purge every last ounce of Englishness out of the English.

    • HookesLaw

      Yawn … get off your high horse – this is to do with local govt where does the notion of England come into it?
      There have always been Scottish and Welsh ‘Offices’.

      • Colonel Mustard

        “…this is to do with local govt where does the notion of England come into it?”

        Hee-hee. Precisely the point. It doesn’t.

      • Smithersjones2013

        Oh dear do not start talking about yet another topic you clearly lack the wit to understand!

      • Wessex Man

        YAWN! YWAN! you half-wit, don’t you see whats being done to one of the oldest nation states in the world. No, being a blind follower of Call me Dave who boasted to the Scots that he was proud of the Scottish blood that pounds through veins you wouldn’t!

  • Rhoda Klapp8

    This is all about who gets to spend the money. Who can tax, who can borrow, who can get the money from central govt. Well, give it to the mayor, give it to the council and all their builder/developer mates, let the EU bypass national govt and dole it out to their corporate mates, NONE of that gives power to the individual. Don’t express it that way, don’t accept when others express it that way. The only time you are getting power to the individual is when the poor sod gets to keep his own money and spend it how he likes. This is not included in any party’s localism agenda.

  • dalai guevara

    It is good to see some believe that the decentralisation agenda could in fact be a race. However, this is of course not really about trust, nor really about power to individuals. More evenly distributed access to work, supplies, a qualified workforce, connectivity and so on will of course naturally take the pressures off the wage differential, the transport infrastructure, the schools, the homes in good school areas and so on. There is plenty of *space* to do this. There is no shortage of good ideas.

    • Blindsideflanker

      Post devolution the British political establishment don’t have the moral right to meddle in English constitutional matters. In light of the British establishment seeking to bribe devolved parliaments to keep this fraying country together, we cannot have confidence in them or their actions when they meddle in internal English matters.

  • anyfool

    Localism will fail, it will fail because local authorities are just as useless as government, all it will do is pass down an incompetent system to people who have never done much in life.

    Councillors are just like MPs, free riders who think the world owes them big for their minimal talents.

    The likes of Manchester or Newcastle will never return to the greatness of the Victorian era without the men and rules of that time.
    The Lilliputians hold sway throughout society.

    • you_kid

      Then how about fielding councillors that have ‘done much in life’. Why disassociate those who govern you from those who bring in the expertise? Why not find a system in your local community in which not socialists but real people govern you?

    • Smithersjones2013

      At the end of the day the vast majority of these useless councillors and MPs have one thing in common. They all belong to the establishment parties and thats where we need to start reforming!

    • telemachus

      What arrogant pap
      Have you been to Manchester recently
      It is thriving expanding and a centre of attention for media folk that brings in yet more business
      All this orchestrated by one of the most progressive Councils in England
      A Labour Council of Course

  • Colonel Mustard

    “And of course if you are promising Scottish people still more powers if they do not back independence in September, then it is only right that other parts of the UK are included in that discussion about devolution.”

    What weasel words. Other parts include England. But instead of mentioning the country that cannot be named (except as a sporting team) an artificial creation of regionalisation, sponsored of course by the EU, must be imposed so that the puppet government in Westminster can continue to rule. The sop of mayors for the colonised cities and break up the rest in a pretence of “localism” to avoid the elephant in the room growing larger whether “Yes” or “Devo max” pertains in Scotland.

    • Inverted Meniscus

      Spot on as ever.

    • Blindsideflanker

      Yes, this time they seek to balkanise England using the excuse of economics but the agenda is still the same.

      After the Scots get their Devo Max or Independence light which are both the same thing, and the English say ‘what about us?’ the British establishment will claim we don’t need devolution because we have City fiefdoms, and we are going to wonder when did we ever ask for that!

      Of course the British political establishment can get away with having this discussion between themselves, for the British media won’t ask them any difficult questions about it from an English perspective, as we saw with Isabel Hardman the other day, when the Spectator team was supposed to be talking about English devolution, but Isabel Hardman preferred to talk about the Scots.

    • Tom M

      I wouldn’t have used the words “sponsored by the EU” when referring to regionalisation. I would have thought “as required by the EU” would be more appropriate

      • Colonel Mustard

        I take your point but I think the ‘requirement’ is more insidiously conveyed and therefore sponsorship which has a broad collection of meanings is quite appropriate.

        We have, in effect, a puppet government, our political elite having surrendered the sovereignty of our nation – and therefore our people – to a foreign power, the EU. But they maintain a pretence of initiating laws, “reform” and changes. The labyrinthine nature of EU directives ensures that the imperative is not always evident and this game can be played to the point where, if resistance is articulated, our weasel legislators can shrug their shoulders and proclaim “Not us, guv!”

        Most “initiatives” when they suddenly appear can be traced back to the EU or some NGO associated either with the EU or UN. But the process is often complex and not meant to be transparent. The “progressives” involved much prefer to advance their agendas in closed meetings with agreements and back room deals rather than in the full glare of parliamentary passage.

        • Tom M

          I take your point also but I still prefer “requirement” because if I remember correctly John Prescot’s sometime initiative to create regional government was not his idea but, let’s say, furthering an initiative from Brussels to create EU regions. These regions of course would be only answerable in the long term to Brussels.
          I agree totally with your other observations on EU directives etc. I made a statement on another thread saying that no Prime minister or foreign secretary had ever read what they were signing up to in the EU. No-one’s gainsayed that yet.
          If memory serves the treaties were all in French when we joined the EEC and weren’t translated until some long time later. I think it was Douglas Hurd who said “now that I’ve signed it I had better read it” (Maastricht treaty). Appalling.

  • Blindsideflanker

    These Labour City fiefdoms are not materially any different to the City fiefdoms the Conservatives want to set up. They both attempt to sneak in the balkanisation of England by the back door to avoid having to answer the West Lothian Question.

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