Colin Barrow views localism as the means to empower communities and address local issues. It has the potential to increase individual and social responsibility and to create self-sustaining models of service delivery.
He believes that it will be possible to redefine the relationship between the state at the local level and the citizen. It will be possible to shape future services and how local government delivers them. In this way the relationship between state and citizen will be rebalanced so that local people and local communities have much greater control and say over local services, and their local neighbourhoods. These changes will allow local government to address some of the more fundamental challenges including homelessness, dependency and worklessness.
By acting as the honest broker, local government has the ability to bring services together, providing ladders of opportunity. At the heart of localism lies the belief that communities and neighbourhoods must be empowered to allow them to make informed decisions and choices, and empowered to play an active part in the running and delivery of public services in order to change their communities.
The drivers for change are clear. Financial constraints and the budget deficit mean
that the country must radically change if it is to live within its means. Expenditure
on servicing the nation’s debt is now our fourth largest budget line after welfare,
health and education. This is not sustainable.
Over the last eighteen months, the landscape in which we operate has
changed almost beyond any recognition. We have seen a government more willing
to release some of the strictures in which local government has been operating.
Gone is the Comprehensive Area Assessment. Gone is the Audit Commission.
Gone shortly will be PCTs. Gone is the Government Office for London, and the rest
of regional government. In their place, we have a government seemingly committed to
devolving power to neighbourhoods, to communities and to the individual.
No longer can we go on as before. We must recognise the true reality of what we are facing. We must recognise that the old traditional models, where a council itself delivered many of the services, are gone forever. The financial constraints we face must act as a stimulant to this process. They must not, though, act as the only driver. Simply cutting and reducing budgets is too simplistic, and will ultimately fail the communities that we exist to serve.
Instead, we must seize this opportunity to fundamentally rethink the role
of local government – what it does and how does it. We must re-think our service
LOCALISM IS THE REAL DEAL can be downloaded here.