Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Localism and equalities: dark age ahead Over recent months I've been party to a few conversations about threats to the equalities and rights agenda posed by public service cuts and the coalition government's apparent enthusiasm for throwing out safeguards. An example came up just the other day, with Children's Minister Tim Loughton quoted as saying that 'it is a "nonsense" that some carers have to get permission for everyday activities such as haircuts or sleepovers'. Yes but no. In many circumstances it's highly desirable that the parents of a child in care are encouraged to retain responsibility for precisely these kinds of decisions. As a foster carer there are definitely cases in which that is what I would want to happen, in the interests of the child, however awkward it may seem. Only bureaucrats benefit from excessive regulation, but when you start looking at why some safeguards are in place there are usually minority interests at stake. It's depressing to have a minister of government showing such a nuance-free disregard for the rights and needs of parents. I got onto this because I've been reflecting on the latest paper from the International Longevity Centre, on localism and neighbourhoods. Authors Dylan Kneale and David Sinclair argue that 'The Localism Bill should include greater safeguards to ensure that the rights of marginalised or minority populations to access a full range of amenities and services locally are protected.' They go on to call for 'a joined-up approach among bodies representing minority and marginalised groups to research and lobby for changes in the way spending cuts affect marginalised populations.' I didn't realise that it's well over four years since the ILC published their excellent paper on lifetime neighbourhoods - no less insightful or important now. The present document is an update to that thinking, in a less sympathetic political context where for example we no longer have CABE to defend and promote good quality design of neighbourhoods, and instead we have the bizarre and nasty government fad of bashing planners and the planning system. Dark age ahead, as Jane Jacobs foretold.

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