What we’re reading 29/11/10

Caution: is your community legal? The LGiU has been challenging people to provide a legal definition of what a community is. Civil servants are currently preparing their own definition for the Localism Bill. Most have been contributed via Twitter. But here’s a thoughtful response on Kevin Harris’s blog from Gabriel Chanan. Gabriel argues that:

A community cannot be given legal powers because it is not an entity. It is a description of a certain (or more often uncertain) state of relationships amongst the population of a locality or some other group with interests in common. The only population-based entity to which you can give legal powers in a locality is a community organisation of one sort or another.

Lichfield high-speed rail opposition among the fiercest along the HS2 route. Fast trains + small villages = a headache for developers. History indicates that local people are a force to be reckoned with. The good people of Eton managed to extract a “a watchman on the line to keep Eton boys from endangering their lives or the lives of passengers” among other concessions before a local branch line could be constructed in the 1850s.

Few ‘Big Society’ groups in Work Programme. The LGC reports that no councils and only five civil society organisations have been included in the DWP list of 35 organisations who will be invited to bid for multi-million pound contracts through government’s flagship single Work Programme. It’s hugely depressing to see central government pass over cheap and cheerful local providers in favour of the same old private sector suspects. We’ve explained previously why it’s such a wasted opportunity here.

Art critic Brian Sewell urges council to sell off paintings. Bath and North East Somerset Council is expecting to make 300 people redundant in the next three years. Brian Sewell has told the council that it could sell some of its £10.9 million art collection to help meet the savings and “no one would notice”. He’s probably right that a collection is too big if 79 per cent of it can be kept in storage. It’d be a sad day, however, if historic collections bequeathed to local people ended up hanging in the likes of Sewell’s study.