By Jeremy BeechamThe author, who was Chair of the Local Government Association from 1997 to 2004, sets out his views on how localism could best embody the spirit of community. He argues that three decades of centralism have weakened the capacity of local councils to identify and meet the needs of their local communities. Councils are seen increasingly merely as agents of central government policy. The limited success of central command and control is leading the Government to consider a more decentralized approach, but this is not consistent across government departments, nor does it necessarily imply devolution to the town hall. Some proponents of new localism advocate by-passing local government in favour of separately elected single service bodies: a process likely to undermine representative democracy and increase depoliticization.
He concludes that councils must be recognized as community leaders, much less dependent on central funding and subject to less regulation and more proportionate inspection.
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