Saturday, 8 April 2017

Social Democracy and local government in Devon


Back in October 2009, the former prime minister considered 'the theme of social democracy when he said the Conservatives were "the party of the NHS now, today, tomorrow, always", that they would "improve" the Sure Start programme and that low-income families would not be punished by bringing an end to welfare dependency.'
Conservative conference | David Cameron | General Election | Devon & Cornwall | Western Morning News | Cornwall Live

The question today is whether that is still the case: 
Futures Forum: The decline of social democracy, the rise of austerity and the promise for local politics

In October 2013 some were saying that at a local level this was not the case:

The end of local government

Nowhere has the spending axe bitten more deeply than local government. Sir Albert Bore, Labour leader of Birmingham city council, the biggest council and – arguably – the authority closest to the financial precipice, again warned last week of the end of local government as we know it. Whitehall insiders talk of 30 English councils going bust over the next few years. Even modest attempts to give councils more powers to borrow and build have hit a brick wall. In his autumn statement, the chancellor said he would make an extra £300m available to build more homes. That's a tenth of what senior finance experts believe authorities could safely borrow to build thousands of new homes in co-operation with others.

In this area, as elsewhere, ideology reigns supreme. Authorities will be expected to match this with cash from the sale of high-value council estates in city centres, and equally valuable land. This simply doesn't make sense: forcing councils to sell valuable assets, with valuable rental streams, against which they could borrow and build.

The year government cuts changed the face of the welfare state | Society | The Guardian

And in fact, local government has always been about 'social democracy' - which is why local government has become 'an ideological battleground':
Futures Forum: The assault on Local Government: The Strange Death of Municipal England:

But this assault on the post-war consensus has been happening for some time now:
The crisis in European social democracy: a crisis like no other | openDemocracy
In the United States:
Social Democracy Is Collapsing In America And Europe
Open Your Eyes: Social Democracy is Collapsing - Foundation for Economic Education - Working for a free and prosperous world
In Iceland:
Spineless Social Democracy - Social Europe
In Holland:
The Dutch Election Was The Latest Chapter In The Death Of European Social Democracy | The Huffington Post
In France:
From Collapse to Mystique | The Nation

Meanwhile, back in Devon, the County has long been dominated by the Conservatives who at least at this level would not consider themselves 'ideologues'; moreover on a Continental scale they would be called 'Christian Democrats': 

Although in the current County elections campaign, their opponents would disagree:


However, there are innovative ideas out there as to how to do local government:

Whether during the local elections of May 2015:
Futures Forum: Flatpack democracy: the new English political revolt
How Flatpack Democracy beat the old parties in the People’s Republic of Frome | Politics | The Guardian

Or some fresh input from last year:
Futures Forum: We need to talk about Devon
Futures Forum: Devon United: 'doing democracy differently' >>> inaugural meeting: Tuesday 4th October

And there are alternatives to the social democratic panacea 
- which does need not mean a cynical approach to austerity:
Futures Forum: Volunteers in the community: 'doing jobs for free' or 'empowering communities to take local action'?

- or a desperate attempt to bring in more cash:
Futures Forum: "Councils in Crisis" >>> a quiet revolution in finding new ways to raise money and deliver services

And that is the notion of 'self-help' 
- because, ultimately, we can't rely on politicians to do it for us anyway:
Futures Forum: The empty promises of 'Job creation' - and the real possibilities from 'entrepreneur-led revitalisation' and the 'return of a spirit of self-reliance'

Decentralised energy production:
Futures Forum: Local energy can be very profitable: "Seizing the opportunity of decentralised energy generation can provide new income streams for communities and councils."
Futures Forum: Local authority and community energy projects are going to pose “a big challenge" to the Big Six providers
Futures Forum: "Energy economics are changing rapidly and so the momentum is towards decentralised, smart and flexible energy systems."
Futures Forum: "In most other countries, renewable energy projects are owned by local communities: and so there's a huge groundswell of support for them."

No energy production:
Futures Forum: Going off-grid
Futures Forum: Going off-grid with Ben Fogle Futures 
Forum: Living without technology for a year

Decentralised local economies:
Futures Forum: "Doing it Ourselves" >>> Forum for a New Local Economy >>> looking at opportunities: meeting Torbay 4th March
Futures Forum: Decentralized Manufacturing
Futures Forum: Building a new economy through grassroots projects
Futures Forum: Transitioning to a new economy

Futures Forum: Open Source Ecology >>> Homebrew Industrial Revolution >>> Do-it-yourself sustainable development
Futures Forum: The DIY economy
Futures Forum: Right to repair
Futures Forum: Solidarity, the DIY-aid movement and civil society >>> transitioning to a sustainable society, a resilient economy

Local banks and local money:
Futures Forum: The nef > 'transforming RBS into a network of local banks'
Futures Forum: Alternative currencies and local economies >>> >>> timebanks, local exchange trading systems (LETS) and digital currencies
Futures Forum: Communities deciding to produce their own money

Reliance on the Commons:
Futures Forum: Elinor Ostrom: sustainable development ... and the 'tragedy of commons'
Futures Forum: Transition and the Commons

Local housing solutions:
Futures Forum: Self-build
Futures Forum: A solution to our housing problems: build in the trees
Futures Forum: Locally-led garden towns and villages

Finally, we mustn't forget that the first modern welfare state was brought in by Bismarck 
- to stem the threat of a growing Social Democratic Party 
- and to curb the 'mutualist' movement whereby people in the cities were creating their own institutions to look after themselves...
Social Democracy By Gaither Stewart

A hundred and forty years later, we have the Transition Town movement:
Local, self-sufficient, optimistic: are Transition Towns the way forward? | Environment | The Guardian
do we need a new co-op model for Transition? - Co-operative News

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