- Available in: Print and PDF
- Published: January 1, 2007
Edited by David Walker.
Published 2007 (ISBN 1 905370 29 6) Price £9.95
As David Walker comments in his introduction to this monograph, “we are all localists now”. Indeed, it is quite remarkable how broad the political consensus for local devolution and decentralisation has become. You hear few politicians or policy makers today arguing that “Whitehall knows best” or that the nation would be better served by taking powers away from local councils. The debate is now focused on what follows the dispersal of power to Scotland, Wales and London, and how we can strengthen local democracy, empower local councils and improve local services. How can we, in this ever more complex society, best transform the way councils work with their communities and central government; how do we democratise local services and give people more control and more choice; how much discretion and autonomy should be given to local councils, and in what new policy areas; and what are the short- and long-term costs and benefits of “letting go”? According to Hazel Blears, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, “it is the responsibility of everyone who believes that devolving power is the answer – to prove it”. The authors in this monograph take up this challenge, and in different ways demonstrate what “new localism” and “double devolution” can realistically offer. Collectively they not only explore what could be achieved in terms of democratic renewal, active citizenry and local services, but also suggest how local devolution contributes towards local economic development and so-called “place shaping”. This is a positive and challenging time for local councils. The political momentum is for further change and a new partnership between central and local government (and between councils and the private and voluntary sectors). But this new era of devolution must be firmly rooted in best practice and common sense, and with the capacity and capability to deliver. As some of the essays that follow point out, the task now for local government is not to talk up the case for localism, but to prove to central government and their local community that they deserve more powers and the resources that go with it.