Posts Tagged ‘Graeme Henderson’

Five reasons why the future of the left is local

22/11/2012, 12:57:49 PM

by Graeme Henderson

Localism has emerged as the poster boy of new policy ideas. For instance, the recent Heseltine review, a report on UK competitiveness, could easily be misread as a report on localism. Following similar themes, the publication of IPPR North’s northern economic futures commission final report this coming week will set out how devolving more power to the north of England could help it prosper. All of the main political parties are cautiously warming to localism and its benefits. The caution is understandable as it effectively means national government rendering itself less powerful. However, for those of on the left, the problem is more fundamental: simply put, is localism merely a byword for the dreaded postcode lottery? This is an unfair assessment of localism, yet it is one which is still persuasive on the left.

It is time for us to view the left as the natural home of localism. Localism, after all, means bringing power closer to the people, empowering communities and, when done right, more meaningful democratic accountability. There are several reasons why the left should embrace localism. If you’re still sceptical, keep on reading.

1. We already have a postcode lottery, let’s at least make it accountable

What is important is that local areas receive a fair proportion of public funding, not that funding is delivered (or even raised) centrally. Identifiable public spending per head, excluding social protection, is £6,647 in London, but only £5,385 in the north east. For Yorkshire and the Humber the figure is just £4,841, and yet studies have shown that the higher level of public expenditure received by London does not correspond to objective measures of need.

The regional disparities are even starker for transport infrastructure spending. Failing to adequately invest in vast swathes of the country affects the poor and disadvantaged most. Research shows that the high-skilled labour pool is far more mobile than those with lower skill levels. The most able or those with financial backing can move to wherever the jobs are. If London hoovers up the lion’s share of talent – people educated across the UK – and also public and inward investment, the regions suffer. Such extreme centralisation focused on London and the South East can only result in long-term damage to the national economy. Localism can help give local people a voice when their areas are being overlooked, and by extension, rather than hindering equal opportunities,  it can help to ensure that people get the same chances, wherever they happen to live..


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