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May 12

Early findings from the Localism Commission


Our new Commission on the Future of Localism is well underway.

We have set up the Commission – in association with Power to Change – to gather innovation, ideas and make recommendations about what’s needed to reinvigorate local democracy and empower communities.

Already so far we’ve been receiving some very interesting and useful responses to our survey and our written consultation, and last month we held our first evidence session with our Commissioners. We were also joined at this session by a number of national organisations with an interest in localism and communities including the RSA, Local Trust, Voice for Change, NLGN, ACRE, NALC, and Power to Change.

Our next consultation events will be held in Manchester and Bristol – and we will be sending out details of how you can be involved shortly. You can also respond to our survey until the 15th May and our written consultation is open until 12 June.

Localism must be at the heart of our post-Brexit settlement

At our first meeting our Localism Commissioners discussed the potential of localism to carve out a positive vision for the future of Britain post-Brexit. We need to forge a new civic settlement, to turn the referendum campaign slogan ‘take back control’ into a productive conversation about how power is dispersed and how local initiatives are empowered to thrive.

English Devolution is a part of this. However a new vision for localism needs to be about more than devolving powers and responsibilities to local government, it needs to be about belonging, identity and connectedness. People and communities must be the end goal of localism and devolution.

Building community capacity for change

Charlotte Alldritt from the RSA presented some of the findings from their research on People Shaped Localism at our first evidence session. She spoke about how community capacity needs to be built on peoples’ perception of self-efficacy and self-worth. Community confidence was a key theme of our discussion. When people are involved in neighbourhood initiatives and see the value of collective action, this can help build the foundations for a more ‘participatory democracy,’ enabling people to recognise their own agency.

Fostering this local capacity requires the right local organising mechanisms – and community organising is an important tool. Neighbourhood forums also act as vehicles for harnessing civic energy and are a space for local organising and building broad-based, local leadership.  They could also provide the blueprint for the neighbourhood governance required for handing more powers and resources to communities.

What are the tools and resources communities need?

This question is at the heart of the challenge. A revised localism agenda must not only be about a legislative framework for community powers (as was the model of the Community Rights) but needs to also provide the long-term investment and support required to build civic capacity.

At our discussion, it was pointed out that community infrastructure needs to be viewed in the same way as other essential infrastructure – such as the roads network: it needs national investment, otherwise the result is patchy and inadequate.

A key theme emerging strongly from both our first evidence session and the evidence we have received to our consultation so far, is that the devolution of resources and funding powers to neighbourhoods is essential if we are to fundamentally change the power dynamics between state and citizen.

Next steps

Our next consultation events will be held in Manchester and Bristol over the summer– and we will be sending out details of how you can be involved shortly. You can also respond to our survey on Community Rights and Localism until 15 May and our fuller written consultation is open until 12 June.

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