Localism - what's it all about?
I have to confess that I am still in the dark about this whole localism debate. Perhaps it's just me but from what I've heard to date, the localism agenda seems to rear its head in Government circles whenever the current administration perceives it is being asked to act like a nanny state and influence decisions that it believes should be made at local level.
The stock response appears to be – "It's not up to Government to do X, Y and Z. That's up to local authorities or local communities." That was certainly the message at the recent Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association conference at Birmingham's NEC last week when Lord Henley was pressed on the issue of source segregated waste.
The anaerobic digestion industry would like local authorities to segregate their waste because this would make it easier for AD to secure long-term contracts for feedstock. The minister, however, was having none of this when pressed to intervene. Arguably, his was a justified riposte.
But hang on a minute. Perhaps it's just me but I have a sneaky suspicion that this same localism that ministers keep ranting on about conveniently goes AWOL whenever the administration decides that it knows best and therefore local interests must be overridden. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!
In the last year, the pendulum seems to have swung from an interventionist Labour government to a Coalition that is unwilling to step in (apart from those occasions when its suits the political will of the administration).
Surely, a more pragmatic approach is the most sensible option? Decisions must not be ideologically driven whatever the shade of colour in power. Local opinions are important and should prevail when appropriate.
But when central government does have to step up to the plate and make the hard decisions that sometimes need to be made, it shouldn't be wrapped up in party political doctrine. It should be done because all views have been heard and taken into account, and then a rational decision has been made on what is the best course of action.
Nick WarburtonNick Warburton