Localism in London – Michael Ward

Last session in the LSE London seminar series 18 March 2013 Michael Ward (now at Smith Institute) on Localism in London

Some facts.  History of London govt from 1889 LCC, then Met Boroughs based on vestries 1899. Resented by progressives on LCC as undermining its new authority. 1960 first serious attempt – Herbert Commission – led to GLC, abolished 1965. (French fund it unthinkable that entities could be abolished.)

“Localism” is both a body  of ideas and a bit o legislation.  Nostalgia, Rasmussen, Passport to Pimlico, Abercrombie. Not much on micro-levels of London govt.  LSE has a scheme A for Herbert (what we got ±) and scheme B with bigger boroughs + parishes.  Rejected.  But there is now a wideview that Booroughs are too small for some things and too big for others.

Mulgam et al, with LGA support (+D Milliband when minister) called for “double-devolution” 2006 led to “Empowerment” white paper. Huge and cost £30. Then the coalition agreement used similar language to the white paper, on new powers to communities and local govt.  Hilary Ben now also supporting L.

One provision of the L Act is “strengthening London Govt” merging police authority, LDA , created LDCs + permissive power to devolve other services from whitehall.  Removed ultra vires  (NB the power to promote “weel-being” had been litte used). Right to challenge, to bid, to build and to draw up NPs created too for communities.

Only one parish council yet approved – Queen’s Park, with elections 2014.  Bermondsey w Bankside, + London Fields also in pipeline.

Is a strong city authority really “localism”?

Traditionally a left argument.

Could the GLA really be a stratgeic authority?

NP is very problematic.  6 + 20 in pipeline + 32 expressions of interest but 50% of boroughs had no interest at Nov 2012

(Impetus for Eden plan came from 6 resident planning consultants who lived there.)

NB see Chris Brown Blog of today on chaos in Bermondsy. Dartmouth Park steaming ahead. Stamford Hill stuck in conflict between rival representations.

Thame has spend £100k already.

Doubt if NPs can do anything much to deal with the social housing crisis, or slowing down social change.

Nunhead trying to raise the money to buy the pub they have identified as an asset of community value.

“Economies of scale” has always driven changes in city govt in London. But not clear that this is very relevant.  Not clear that NP is the most interesting or the most important thing happening.

World City narrative very important (both mayors + LF etc). Neo-liberal vision points to eve more deregulation.  New in 1990s. Where is the debate on this among Londoners???

Boroughs desperate and preoccupied with cuts.

Total collapse of LG Finance system. Layfield ignored. LG is just trappings for a centralised system. Tax base overwhelmingly in London and SE. Council tax and UBR both highly regional concentrated.

NP likely to make densification even harder to achieve.

Why not cost out the abolition of local taxation? A huge efficiency saving. Note that it is now almost impossible to finance from local revenues any service the need for which is inversely related to income. Only in the most special casess (?westminster etc) is it even conceivable.

Big questions:

Debate on world city

Debate on whether mayoral elections are in any sense democaratic…  and why there are no other stories.


Author: Editors


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