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Localism: work in progress, but room to lead and shape

Localism: work in progress, but room to lead and shape

🕔23.Mar 2011

I attended the British Property Federation briefing event on the Localism Bill with some co-conspirators this evening. Turley Associates (planning consultants), Birmingham City Council and PPS (public affairs) provided the speakers. Wragge & co were in charge of the rather nice canapés.

As Andrew Round from BCC commented, it’s difficult to philosophically argue with the localism cause. The UK, even after devolution, is far too centrally run and regulated. It’s also true that much of the Coalition Government’s localism policy leaves a little to be desired when it comes to the detail, not least in terms of the planning process.

I was, however, disappointed by the mood and tone of the event. Very negative and cynical. One might even suggest that the property and legal types don’t like the idea of change – and the impact it will have on their lives and businesses.

Localism is good and it’s happening. Not brilliant and pretty in parts, but the direction of travel is right.

The subject of LEPs inevitably reared its head. Inevitably too, there was much chuntering on the vagueness and LEPs boundaries, powers and budgets. Fine, they are another imperfect policy. But again, having business take a significant role in local economic development is surely good. And the approach, at least rhetorically from Government, is ‘you tell us what you are going to do and how you are going to do it, and we’ll give you the tools’. We all know it won’t work quite that simply, but isn’t it better to get in there to shape and lead rather than carp from the sidelines whilst you wait to see if you can make some from money from it or just say ‘I told you so?’

Yes, Government policy and legislation can be messy. Today, more than ever, there are opportunities to improve it or make it work in practice. Those that do will prosper; others will talk at great length of how it was better in the old days.

Personally, I’d rather lead, shape….and prosper.

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