Wednesday, 22 December 2010

A divisive localism I think I'm not the only commentator who has remained neither inspired nor gobsmacked by the publication of the Localism Bill. This is partly because so much of it was thoroughly trailed beforehand, and partly because, well, it doesn't seem to be nearly as radical as we had been led to believe. Shades of the Empowerment white paper a few years ago. Perhaps that is why the gloomy news about funding arrangements for local councils was released at the same time. I will be most curious about CLG's 'barrier-busting' initiative, described as follows: 'Some local authorities want to deliver public services in new ways. Others are keen to do new things, such as invest in small-scale green energy. And volunteers, community groups and social enterprises of many kinds would like to play a bigger role in local life. But sometimes barriers get in the way. Red tape, rules and regulations stop people putting good ideas into action. Not only is this frustrating – it means that local people miss out. The barrier busting team is here to help. We want to help you get things done for your local community.' Of course, you have to go through a few bureaucratic processes to make your case, and rightly so. I'm only going to say this once: don't let me catch you putting in a request to the barrier-busters to bust their own barriers, ok? Meanwhile, there was more interest in the published information about cuts to local council funding. Ben Toombs over on the RSA Projects blog notes that 'councils with the most deprived residents seem to be facing the deepest cuts precisely because their residents are the least affluent.' 'I think there is plenty to suggest that in practice ... the empowering effect of the Bill will be weakest in the very areas where cuts are to be deepest. If this is the case, the effect of the Bill is likely to be to widen the gap between communities, not narrow it.' Indeed. So no surprises there either. I may be wrong about the radical impact of the Localism Bill, but I don't think Ben is wrong about the effect of the cuts on those who are least able to deal with them. These cuts are doing what cuts do: they divide.

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