Glyn Gaskarth, a policy manager here at LGiU, took part in a Guardian debate last week on the potential risks involved with localism?
A summary of his points can be found below:
UK local councils actually run quite a tight fiscal ship: We need to ensure that central government cannot force local government to perform actions without providing the funding necessary. Councils also need to raise more of their funding locally and be accountable for that funding. With the exception of a limited amount of redistribution between rich and poor areas, neither central nor local government should be able to promise lots of goodies that someone else has to raise the funds to pay for.
Focus on residents: We should start with a presumption in favour of local control but we need to start with the citizen and work up. Does something need to be done? If yes then can citizens do this without government involvement? If no then can local government do this? Only if the answer is no should we turn to central government. I don’t want localism to mean setting up lots of little Whitehalls all around the country.
We need to make it easier for people to work with councils: I think the coalition tried to sell the ‘big society’ concept with the idea that it would lead to volunteers taking over loads of services when actually the big society is about a mixed market in service provision. This will include some private providers, some voluntary groups, central government agencies and the local council. These partnerships need to be about sharing risk not simply transferring it all. We need to change our thinking and remove the barriers to people coming forward to run these services, even if there may not be many wanting to do this in practice.
A full round-up of the debate can be view on the Guardian Local Government Network here.