Coffee House

Briefing: The three main parties’ offers on localism

1 July 2014

6:20 PM

1 July 2014

6:20 PM

How much common ground do the political parties have on localism? As Isabel pointed out this morning, Labour and the Conservatives are engaged in an arms race to see who can out do the other on plans to devolve powers from central government. All politicians love to talk up localism — particularly in opposition, where there’s no Whitehall machine to deal with — but their dreams and slogans frequently change. This is what the three main parties have said, and currently believe, on empowering the regions:

Conservatives

In opposition, David Cameron put forward plans to devolve power in a more radical way than ever before. In the Conservatives’ 2010 manifesto, a section entitled ‘Make politics more local’ outlined their plans for doing this through elected mayors:

‘We will put neighbourhoods in charge of planning the way their communities develop, with incentives in favour of sustainable development. We will make it easier for everyone to get onto the housing ladder. We will give individuals and local government much more power, allow communities to take control of vital services, and give people the chance to have a powerful, elected mayor in England’s largest cities.’

The implementation of elected mayors didn’t go to plan in government. A referendum was held two years ago and only a handful of cities said yes. As I wrote in the Spectator earlier this year, it’s a shame England didn’t vote for more elected mayors. It could have been a great opportunity to give mayors much needed control over their own areas.

George Osborne is still a fan of localism, as seen in his ‘Northern powerhouse’ speech last week. The Chancellor has advocated building a high speed railway between Manchester and Leeds; to help the Northern cities build better links and work together to further their interests. Through improved infrastructure, careful planning and united politicians, the Chancellor believes the north will be able to take on London.

[Alt-Text]


It’s likely more devolution commitments (along these lines) will feature in the next Tory manifesto.

Labour

Andrew Adonis’ growth review released today argues for a ‘really big package’ of devolution to rebalance England’s economy. Under his proposals, £6 billion a year of transport, housing, welfare and infrastructure budgets would be devolved from central government to councils or combined authorities. Adonis has also proposed creating 100 ‘University Technical Colleges’ and giving more procurement contracts to SMEs.

Sound familiar? Labour’s proposals are along the same lines as the Tories, although arguably more radical. The cities minister Greg Clark suggested on the World at One that today’s announcement is really just Labour backing the government’s devolution plans.

This isn’t Labour’s first attempt at giving more powers to the regions — remember John Prescott’s regional assemblies? The one and only vote lead to 78 per cent of the North East saying no to his idea of an extra layer of government.

Liberal Democrats

At the party’s spring conference, a motion was carried on a policy paper which would allow cities to have ‘devolution on demand’. A council (or grouping of them) with at least one million inhabitants could apply to Whitehall for devolution. If successful, the council would be granted similar powers to Wales.

There’s one area that’s very keen on this idea: Cornwall. The Lib Dem proposals would offer ‘immediate devolution to Cornwall’, according to the Local Government Chronicle. It isn’t clear if any other councils would be interested in begging for devolution.

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  • Colonel Mustard

    “Under his proposals, £6 billion a year of transport, housing, welfare and infrastructure budgets would be devolved from central government to councils or combined authorities.”

    That isn’t giving power away. It is just “investment” in urbanisation with money robbed (or borrowed) from Peter to pay Paul (the local gauleiter). All the parties, city-centric, want to urbanise Britain because their idiotic policies have over-populated and under-resourced it. They want sleepy Bogend-on-Marsh to become Tower Hamlets. But only because they have flooded Bogend-on-Marsh with thousands of foreign immigrants and its resources can’t cope. The stupid idiots have had no idea of infrastructure or logistical constraints and have acted instead as though introducing pioneers to wide open spaces.

    You might have though that the tanker strike would have alerted the fools to the vulnerability of the infrastructure, but no, they kept cramming people in. And now they talk about the pressures on services as though that has nothing to do with their negligent recklessness and it can all be solved by throwing billions of borrowed money at “regions” so they can urbanise themselves.

    • goatmince

      So you deny the fact that the regions need to ‘urbanise themselves’?
      Taxis are still your preferred means of first world transport?
      Have you even been to Leeds station? The place is bursting out of its seams, even on a weekend!

      • Colonel Mustard

        “So you deny the fact that the regions need to ‘urbanise themselves’?”

        Yes.

        “Taxis are still your preferred means of first world transport?”

        No.

        “Have you even been to Leeds station?”

        Not in your lifetime, probably.

        “The place is bursting at its seams, even on a weekend!”

        Which, if not sarcastically intended, reinforces my point about over-population. England with an area of 130,000 square kilometres ranks eighth in population density in Europe behind Monaco, Gibraltar, the Vatican City, Malta, Guernsey, Jersey, and San Marino, none of which are bigger than 320 square miles.

        So you want to turn England into a giant city state? Hmm.

        • goatmince

          Leeds has only just returned to the population figures it once held in the 1970s, after ‘a lifetime’ of declining numbers.
          Increased requirements in mobility today require modern transport solutions. As Britain, unlike many other European nations, has almost completely given up on trams (the exceptions prove the rule!), we must at least demand progress on other tracks, urgently.
          Not only have you never really been to Leeds, you also appear to have never visited Paris, Athens, a very compact Barcelona, Rhein-Ruhr region or the whole of Belgium.

          I have! Numerous times in my short life.

          • Colonel Mustard

            Er, yes I really have been to Leeds but I used to drive there. And Paris. And Germany.

            But you are making my point for me about infrastructure.

            • goatmince

              My apologies, I only noticed a (rather fatuous) point regarding over-population.

              • Colonel Mustard

                Nothing fatuous about it. It is going to become a very significant issue.

  • DaveTheRave

    Ah, that old chestnut, the English Problem.
    Either way, the elite parties can’t stand England and the English. England, not that small, not large, but with a significant 50+million population simply doesn’t fit into their paradigm does it? The UK is falling apart before our eyes and will continue to do so even if Scotland votes ‘No’.
    All this time we argue about localism versus centralisation versus devolution in England, the elephant in the room is staring at us.
    CHANGE THE PARADIGM! We need a de jure English Parliament restored at Westminster (saves money), something like a Council for the North, West and East Anglia to meet regularly at say York, Bristol/Plymouth and Norwich in existing buildings, made up of MPs from those areas who can address local issues.
    And we won’t be able to do this with this current set of elitist fixers.
    Make May 2015 the real earthquake.

  • Roughyed1963

    “A council (or grouping of them) with at least one million inhabitants could apply to Whitehall for devolution. If successful, the council would be granted similar powers to Wales.

    There’s one area that’s very keen on this idea: Cornwall.”

    Population of Cornwall (2011 census) = 532,300

  • Pier66

    LADIES and GENTLEMEN
    dish of the day;

    The FA did not never appreciate never like football genius as Brian Clough, Shankly , Paisley and Glenn Hoddle…with his avantgard football ideas, a winner player deserved a 10 years contract with white paper on everything!
    What done indeed the FA ( in wrong hands since about 70 years? More or less)
    They said Hoddle did not coaching cause he has not football card!!!
    They pick up always the WRONG coach because they like lose(liblab )
    Poor England There are NOT future wrong hands again

    • Wessex Man

      even your irony is gibberish.

      • Pier66

        Is not gibber AT ALL everything is true and perfect

        —-Messaggio originale—-

        Da: notifications@disqus.net

        Data: 2-lug-2014 9.00

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        Wessex Man

        even your irony is gibberish.
        3 a.m., Wednesday July 2

        Reply

        to Wessex Man

        Wessex Man’s comment is in reply to

        Pier66:

        LADIES and GENTLEMEN
        dish of the day;The FA did not never appreciate never like football genius as Brian Clough, Shankly , Paisley and Glenn Hoddle … Read more

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  • El_Sid

    Trouble is that you still get central government setting targets for eg house building that are used to override the locals when they inconveniently chose not to allow development.

    All politicians love to talk up localism — particularly in opposition,
    where there’s no Whitehall machine to deal with — but their dreams and
    slogans frequently change.

    As always, Sir Humphrey put it in a nutshell :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmOvEwtDycs

  • anyfool

    There is not point delegating more powers and money to the political mafias that make up local government.
    The ones with high immigrants will just use it to employ more of their dependents and steal the rest.
    The Labour ones will hike up the expenses and build lots of useless centres that no one uses and steal the rest, ditto the Lib Dems.
    The Tories will pass it through a few channels to their cronies, their will be none left to steal.
    Except for the first, the others are a guess, but whatever happens no good will come of it,.
    Local councils are incompetent at best.

    • goatmince

      Funny how the far right always opt by default for centralised fascism, as if it was genetic.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …I didn’t know your goat sockpuppet had a funny bone, laddie.

  • dado_trunking

    Okay, so we endure the author reiterating the fact that Gidiot now ‘advocates building’ a HS3 line, to be completed no sooner than the late 2030s no doubt, and expects us to acknowledge that as a vote winner. That’s insane.

    (we also note that other ‘localist’ Pickled Brain appears to have dissolved into nothingness)

    • the viceroy’s gin

      …didn’t your goat sockpuppet above blather enough for you, lad?

  • davidhill

    Miliband is like all other political leaders, says one thing but means another. Indeed if these powerhouses will be so good why do we need the TTIP as this will destroy jobs and also take such things away as the NHS with it. Indeed Miliband and all our other political leaders have signed up for this politico-big business trade pact that is being decided in secret and when in place it will allow big business to override sovereign laws through secret courts as well. Think that this cannot be so, read up on the TTIP. That is why Miliband and Cameron et al are selling us down the river for 90% of the people (both the people of the USA and the EU in the case of the TTIP) and where as usual only the richest 10% will gain to the demise of all others. It is perfectly true you just cannot trust politicians and the TTIP is the most vivid example of this. Basically our leaders are complete hypocrites –

    ‘The UK’s and the USA’s ‘per capita Decline’ in Living Standards for more than 90% of the people is due entirely to our political classes’ Inept Management of their respective economies and the Control that Powerful Corporations have over our political leaders. Unfortunately with the Emerging Dominant Asian Economies this will lead to even more extreme poverty for 9 out of every 10 of both the British and American people’ –
    http://worldinnovationfoundation.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/the-uks-and-usas-per-capita-decline-in.html

    The EU-USA Trade Agreement if our politicians vote it through will be a Disaster for the People of Europe & the People of the USA’ –
    http://worldinnovationfoundation.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/the-eu-usa-trade-agreement-if-our.html

  • Smithersjones2013

    When is localism not localism? When its offered by Labour or Tories. Putting one person in charge (i.e. A Mayor) when before there was a governing party is centralisation. When one consolidates local authorities into regional authorities that also is centralisation.

    So it seems that the Libdems are the only ones who in anyway even pay lip-service to localism. Of course the Libdems have long since prostrated themselves at the altar of ‘Ever Closer Union’ in Brussels and with it the acceptance of the greatest centralisation of political power in Europe since the Third Reich so for the Libdems to claim themselves localist would be even more risible than Labour or Tories.

    Osborne is right that devolution is part of the solution to rebalancing our country but the piecemeal proposals that the establishment parties offer will likely only worsen the situation further imbalancing our society, our democracy and our economy because they do not address the political system as a whole and until a holistic approach is taken returning powers from Brussels passing powers down from Westminster to Counties/ Unitaries and they in turn devoling to local authorities all where appropriate nothing will get fixed.

  • Blindsideflanker

    “it’s a shame England didn’t vote for more elected mayors. ”

    Essentially you are saying its a shame English people are English. These English peasants annoyingly value their civic governance and can’t be made to vote for petty Mayoral dictatorships.

    After all what is there to not like about elected Mayors when you have the example of Lutfur Rahman.

    • Smithersjones2013

      Indeed poor ‘Sebastian’ doesn’t even realise that these mayors are in many ways a centralisation of power or at best an additional layer of political bureaucracy to further confuse the mess that is our political system

    • goatmince

      Why can’t we have both? Why can’t we have locals deciding whether they want elected Mayors (we did) and then accept the decisions of the local electorate? That’s localism, intit?

      • Wessex Man

        Why caan’t we have an English Parliament deciding our own fate, never never must more power be put in the hands of the petty little people who run our Councils.

        Wiltshire Council are a fine example, without warning after the Tories had been elected as the majority party they made thousands of workers redundant. Parcelled out all Highway maintenance to Contractors who in the small print inserted a clause which naturally the Councillors never read where they could make the workforce cut grass all day long at a lower rate of pay than repairiing potholes, hence we have the worst roads in the country.

        They didn’t end there though, after ‘creating’ all these savings they decided to reward themselves for all their hard work by doubling their allowances.

        Do you really want that all over the country?

        • goatmince

          Money and governance has been *taken away* from councils in recent years, not freely given to them. How can you pretend not to know that?

          It appears to me that what you are saying is that Wiltshire County Council is now part of the great European project and governed directly from Sicily by Sicilians.

          You cannot trust your own people? Why not finally admit that what you in fact require is another moral beating from the Northern Alliance.

          • the viceroy’s gin

            …does your goat sockpuppet collect local goat benefits, lad?

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