Sunday, 11 January 2015

LOCALISM restated >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> "Power should be decentralised down to the lowest appropriate level - to councils, to community groups and to individual taxpayers"

In his New Year's message, the Leader of the District Council made reference to the need to respect local diversity and not to impose from the top:

"Patterns of local government should reflect England’s local identities and traditions. We will champion England’s long-standing towns, boroughs, cities and counties, and will continue to oppose the imposition of artificial regional structures."

Futures Forum: District Council Leader's New Year message ... "Our satisfaction ratings are the highest they have ever been with the exception of planning." ... "Patterns of local government should reflect England’s local identities and traditions."

However, there do seem to be contradictory messages coming out of the District Council when it comes to who exactly should be fashioning the character of their home town.

Here is an observation from the East Devon Alliance:

EDDC will no doubt point to the “Exmouth Seafront” project as their contribution. 

But what has Exmouth and Seaton regeneration brought us so far: 

> a massive Tesco in Seaton (maybe now under the Tesco CEO’s beady eye?) and executive and retirement housing and a very small visitor centre sandwiched between Tesco and the main road, pushing the tramway into the background; 

> Exmouth: a Premier Inn that promised 50 jobs and delivered (maybe) max 25 (the top 2 of which were filled by Premier Inns in advance)and a seafront “attraction” that will be a highly-expensive to use clone of many other seaside areas, destroying the unique charm of the current seafront.

Devon and Cornwall set for bumper tourist seasons | East Devon Watch

On the one hand, the District Council is celebrating the beach hut in Sidmouth:
9 January 2015 - Cabinet gives beach huts improvement programme the thumbs up - East Devon District Council

... but on the other, it is happy to see several demolished in Exmouth:
9 January 2015 - Exciting new watersports centre planned for Queen’s Drive - East Devon District Council

Here is comment from the East Devon Alliance:


Radio Devon news today announced EDDC’s huge project for Exmouth seafront, to include an open-air sports facility. Shame Councillor Moulding and his team haven’t noticed there already is a superb one, that families don’t have to pay to use, requires no energy consumption, and doesn’t pollute. The wide open spaces and sandy beach have long been the resort’s main attraction. (The little-used new ‘super’ bowling alley complex has been struggling to make a profit, we’re told.)

Now Exmouth’s signature seafront beach huts are to be removed, to make way for the District Council’s ambitious Splash project (just a part of the massive site pictured above). Same glass-and-concrete vision as that which bulldozed the much-loved, constantly used and unique Elizabeth Hall,so the land could be sold to the ubiquitous Premier Inn…

So Exmouth loses more of its special character and much-loved landmarks. What exactly will it gain?

Those Exmouth beach huts not fit for purpose | East Devon Watch

The Leader of the District Council has chosen to quote the Communities Secretary with regard to the shape and future of local government.

And yet if the complete text of Eric Pickle's piece is looked at, it reveals a little more:

Vision for Localism & Decentralisation in England

“The Conservative position on further devolution within England is based upon the view that England is a great nation, proudly forming a constituent part of the union of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. We believe that the Westminster Parliament is, and should remain, England's law-making body.

However, we also believe that, without a local voice, communities are made weaker because social responsibility and civic involvement are inhibited; local communities are strongest when everyone has a free and fair say in the decisions that affect them. This is why Conservatives in the coalition government have worked with their coalition partners to deliver significant decentralisation of power and finance within England. But we believe that there is more to do.

The Conservative Party takes the view that, in the years before 2010, central and regional government across England too often undermined local democracy and allowed people too little say over decisions that directly affected them. We argue that power should be decentralised down to the lowest appropriate level – down from Europe, down from Whitehall, to councils, to community groups and to individual taxpayers: giving power to the people.

Therefore in the next Parliament we wish to continue with the empowerment of neighbourhoods and parishes in England, not least through a huge further increase in neighbourhood planning. The aim is to extend community rights and thereby mobilise what Edmund Burke called the “little platoons”, strengthening social and civic responsibility and building social capital – fostering the Big Society.

Conservatives believe that greater localism should be accompanied by greater local accountability, with democratic checks and balances to ensure the responsible use of greater local power. We will continue to support the tried and tested method of first past the post elections for the Westminster Parliament and for all levels of local council in England. But we believe that there should be greater use of direct democracy, such as allowing local people to hold local referendums on local issues. Conservatives also aim to extend and strengthen the transparency and accountability which the current Government has championed, and help support the press and public in holding local politicians to account.

In addition, we want to go further and deeper with the localist reforms that have taken place in England during this Parliament. This will include delivering more bespoke Growth Deals with local councils, including metropolitan mayors where locally supported, and working with Local Enterprise Partnerships and councils to promote jobs and growth. To save taxpayers’ money and improve front-line services, we propose to continue the drive to help local authorities join up different public services, taking forward projects such as Community Budgets, the Better Care Fund, joint working between the emergency services, and the Troubled Families programme.

Our view is that patterns of local government should reflect England’s local identities and traditions. We will champion England’s long-standing towns, boroughs, cities and counties, and will continue to oppose the imposition of artificial regional structures. We take the view that enabling locals to determine local structures locally will encourage civic and national pride across class, colour and creed – in our municipalities and neighbourhoods, in the nation of England and in the United Kingdom.

We strongly believe that localism must not be a way of imposing new taxes: the English taxpayer already pays too much tax. Instead, we wish to strengthen the fiscal incentives that councils have to support enterprise and growth – for example, by further extending the local retention of business rates. Following the course already set by the coalition government, in the next Parliament we will further reduce ring-fencing and ensure that councils are more self-sufficient – building on the fact that 70 per cent of council income is now raised locally.

Conservatives want all parts of England to enjoy prosperity and growth – north and south, shire and municipal, rural and urban. Rather than playing one part of England or Britain against another, we want to let local people in all parts of England keep the proceeds of local growth – thereby providing strong incentives for all local governments to work with local business to support jobs and improve quality of life locally.”

As we approach the general election and the final stage of this Parliament, I hope this presents a vision that the broad church of our Conservative & Unionist Party will welcome.

Yours truly,

Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

Frodsham Conservatives - Andrew Dawson's blog: Vision for Localism & Decentralisation in England

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