Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Localism is the answer

This year, there’s a lot of concern about public service cuts and rises in taxes for certain groups. This, to me, indicates the problem facing anyone in government – the British public wants better public services and lower taxes.

I fully believe that the electorate is not stupid. But, right now, it’s somebody else’s problem – how to square the circle between wanting good public services and as much cash as is needed to achieve this, and paying as little tax as possible. These aims are mutually exclusive in the main, and certainly as exercised by New Labour and Tory.
The trouble is, we have had a two-party hegemony up until now. That hegemony stands for those two different things, only sticking their neck out for headline-grabbing acts that play to their narratives to “stand up for public services” by spending money (Labour) and “keeping Britain open for business” by cutting tax (Tories).
That is grossly over-simplified of course, but that’s how your slightly politically involved person will see it – the loud person in your office with an opinion, the kind of person who influences others…
It seems to me that now the right time for Localism. But, how can localism help with this issue? I’m reminded of certain experiences that I’ve had in work and in campaigning, where I haven’t appreciated the scale of the problem or what’s needed to overcome it until I’ve actually got to the coalface. I’m also reminded of taking part, last year, in an exercise on where money should be spent in a local government budget like this one – which was eye-opening.
So my prescription is, more localism!
It’s in the spirit of community politics that by devolving power back to people you are likely to achieve more efficient outcomes. This especially applies to the kind of community aware, keen-to-help folk that get things done.
But I’m also convinced that if you look at competing demands yourself, you understand how it’s useless to keep moaning about needing more public services and paying less tax forever, and that there must be a better way of doing it.
In short, devolving power through localism leads to a more “can-do” attitude. Now, to get the loud person in the office to be the community aware person – that’s our next challenge!

This article originally appeared on Lib Dem Voice : http://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-localism-is-the-answer-27812.html 

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