Barriers to localism
A 2011 report by Durham University Connecting Localism and Community Empowerment noted that a renewed emphasis on localism re-emerged during the 2000s, leading to proposals for ‘double devolution’ from central government to local government and then from local government to neighbourhoods and households. This so-called ‘new localism’ influenced White Papers on local government and community empowerment and prefigured many of the Coalition Government’s proposals as set out in the Localism Act 2011. A review of four international case studies and two assessments of UK government localism policies reveals that the dominant model for community empowerment is based on increasing citizen participation in the practices of local government, rather than on independent community action.
The report considered whether localism (in its variants such as local government reform, decentralisation, devolution and participatory governance) can be instrumental in bringing about different degrees of community empowerment. It concluded that it can do, but only under certain conditions:
· where localism is actively pursued by different tiers of government as policy priorities;
· includes active devolution of power to different scales of local government;
· is supported by complementary legal and statutory frameworks to accompany the devolution of power;
· promotes and encourages active forms of civil society to organise and engage by supporting community leadership and grass roots movements.