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Think tank calls for a more independent local government

Words: Laura Edgar

The Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) has launched a report that calls for the government to set out a plan for a more independent local government with ‘clear powers and a clear vision’.

Ahead of the Autumn Statement next week (23 November), the think tank has launched Future Local: Seven Possibilities For A Local Government Story, which comprises seven essays published online over the summer.

Each puts forward the parameters of possible new local governing models but, says the report, “they do not constitute a blueprint or a policy programme”.

Instead, they try to “describe different aspects of a future for an independent local government with clear powers, clear vision and a clear role in driving prosperity and ambition locally”.

The essays cover a number of themes, including:

  • Sovereignty: A look back at pre-war local government to make the case for a more muscular municipalism.

  • Creative destruction: The need for a better narrative about democratic renewal in our devolution plans.

  • A written constitution: The need for a constitutional settlement in a post-European age, which established clean and unerodable powers for local government.

  • The financial future of local government: Including a more solid fiscal base and new forms of taxation.

  • Local leadership: The potential for more impressive and diverse local leadership in a devolved system and the support these leaders will need.

  • At the centre of local economic life: A more aggressive and innovative role for local government in promoting local growth.

  • Global participation: An international role for British towns and cities apart from the national government.

Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of the LGiU, said: “Amidst the tidal flow of recent major global political challenges it can seem perverse to focus on the local. But that is where politics always begins.”

He said the LGiU has argued for the benefits of localism.

“If people don’t feel they can control what happens in their neighbourhood they will never feel that they have any agency in the world and we make it all too easy for people to look inwards and backwards rather than forwards and outwards.

“While this is a moment of crisis, it is also a moment of opportunity; a juncture at which we are confronted with an inescapable demand to rethink the nature of our body politic and to redefine the ways in which we work together. If we can only start to do that, then this is the moment at which we can, must, dare to imagine our ‘Future Local.’”

Future Local can be found here.

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