LOCAL IS BETTER THAN NATIONAL

Our Better Way proposition:

National blueprints don't work. This is because governments can set out national aspirations, but cannot dictate how their plans will be received and implemented locally. People need the power to shape the places they live and work in, and this will only happen when governments stop trying to organise community life from the centre.

Insights about our proposition…

At the heart of the case for localism is a simple idea: that the best responses to many social problems are produced by relationships between people and the commitments they make to each other, and that this is often easiest to achieve in local communities, on a human scale.  For example, systems of support for people in difficulty, and initiatives to encourage people to take action themselves to improve their own lives and that of others, are more likely to work successfully when people can build continuing personal relationships, foster associational life, and build their own sense of ‘community’.   To read more…

Localism can have an ugly side, particularly when communities feel threatened by incomers or display intolerance to ‘faces that don’t fit’. Therefore, while local may be better than national for many purposes, some decisions will always need to be exercised at a regional or national level for the sake of a wider social good. But getting the balance right between local and national decision-making and power and maintaining the principles of ‘subsidiarity’ are difficult tasks, not helped by the tendencies of those with power to hold on to it and to centralise ever more.  To read more…

Local actions are, by their very nature, small scale. Replication of a local initiative in another neighbourhood is not always successful, usually because of a lack of local ‘ownership’.  So does this mean that localism cannot address the big social problems the country faces?  Not necessarily. To read more…

Government efforts to promote localism are not always successful, in part because they tend to be driven by the desire to engage citizens in the government’s own agendas, rather than ‘letting go’ to create the conditions for genuine community empowerment, on the community’s own terms. To read more…

There are widespread examples of community ownership of land and buildings, community-led enterprise, neighbourhood planning, and neighbourhood community organising, and some evidence that these approaches can build a sense of community ‘belonging’ and pride, improve community services and facilities, and increase people’s willingness to take action in their neighbourhood.  To read more…

There is also evidence from other countries that decentralisation can improve well-being and reduce inequality, although peer-reviewed research into the impacts of community-level localism is notable by its absence.  To read more…

We want to generate more insights and examples about our propositions. Do get in touch with any thoughts or additions. 

Shaking things up a bit: some discussion points for A Better Way

  •  If local communities were given the opportunity to plan, design, control and own their services, spaces and public amenities, what improvements could this lead to? 
  • What would need to change, and what support would communities need?
  • Where communities decide not to take on certain functions, or do not have the capabilities or skills to do so, can they be provided in ways which nevertheless retain some elements of community involvement and accountability? 
  • What safeguards are needed to reduce the risk of unfair discrimination, or ‘capture’ by interest groups within a community?    

Do you have views on these questions – or are there other questions we should be asking?