Localisation – what’s the point?

I’m struggling to see any point to the Government’s localisation agenda. For example it makes sense to me for local councils to make planning decisions. They are responsibile for local housing, employment, transport and leisure; they manage the local income and expenditure and they’re democratically accountable – planning is one of the few local issues which can get the voters out.

Who gains by giving smaller, less accountable forums a role? Who pays for local forums and referendums? Where does professional and legal advice come from? What’s the advantage in a more complex and patchy planning system?

The same goes for their housing proposals, particularly the new Flexible Tenancy. We’ll end up with some councils using it and some not. Within council areas some Housing Associations will use it and some won’t. The sector’s incoherent enough without another layer of difference.

Commonly different housing associations own neighbouring properties. Currently the tenants pay somewhat different rent, get a different repairs service, have different transfer opportunities and have head offices in different cities. Soon they may have very different rents, security and right-to-buy. This won’t impresses people when they’re living next door to each other in identical properties allocated to them at the same time for similar reasons by the same council.

I think ‘localisation’ is a cynical approach by the Government. It’s cheap – any costs will be born by local councils. It’ll go through the legislation process because no-one really cares, so they’ll get some token successes. It’s meaningless, so it won’t do much damage.

I do have one serious concern about the planning proposals though. They’re clearly pitched at parish councils, which don’t exist in cities. There’s an obvious risk in rural and semi-rural areas these will decide “no more building EVER!” and kill any chance of desperately needed new social housing.

3 Responses to Localisation – what’s the point?

  1. Don’t knock it too hard. The localism bill is giving some people with a fight on their hands (Jonathan Rosenberg in Hammersmith & Fullham) their first real chance to gain control of a housing estate under threat. Whilst I agree with you about the flexible tenancy which is a recipe for housing ghettos.

    H&F policies have been the model for the coalition policy on housing and it’s slowly coming unstuck and the localism bill is helping that process, let’s celebrate that fact so long as it lasts.

  2. inks2010 says:

    Single Aspect, from your mention on another thread of Karen Buck I’d guess you’re in Walterton and Elgin Community Homes (WECH) territory. What WECH did back in the 80s – transfer away from Westminster council in the teeth of huge opposition – seems similar to what the Hammersmith and Fulham tenants are trying to do.

    If the localism bill helps the H&F tenants that’s great but it’s been done successfully before. My impression is getting the support for a vote and sorting out the finances is the key to succeeding with an opposed transfer.

    In the long run flexible tenancies will complete the residualisation of social housing, but that’s a post for another day.

  3. inks2010 says:

    In an ironic twist – after the Government made it plain in planning, policing and education it wants to strip powers from local government – today we get:

    “Local Government Minister Grant Shapps today outlined how radical new legislation will make councillors more powerful than ever before and help them become local champions.”

    Communities.gov.uk newsroom

    I wish the Tories would make their blinking minds up.

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