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A Magna Carta for Localism

Conservative leaders of Westminster, Hammersmith & Fulham and Wandsworth call for freedom to localise

The leaders of the three most successful councils in Britain call for devolution of specific powers which will turn the rhetoric of localism into reality. In A Magna Carta for Localism, Colin Barrow, Stephen Greenhalgh and Edward Lister detail how and why local authorities should be given powers in the following areas:

  • Local support for the unemployed
  • Local provision of all non-NHS care in the community
  • Local prevention of crime and anti-social behaviour, and rehabilitation of local criminals

They show how ending the multiple overlaps between central and local government will improve public services and also save £14 billion a year (on a national basis). In the first instance, trials in devolving more power to local authorities should be held in a number of sympathetic and well-managed local authorities (“Foundation Councils”).

  • Local administration of benefits and tackling unemployment could yield savings in benefits administration, savings from the reduction in fraud and error and savings from reduced welfare dependency. Individuals in Hammersmith and Fulham are prepared to go on the record to describe how this has, to a limited extent, already been achieved in Hammersmith and Fulham.
  • Local care services could be provided by Foundation Councils. This would include long-term care services and services for vulnerable children.
  • Similarly, beat policing, combating youth anti-social behaviour, tackling troubled families and offender management could be devolved to Foundation Councils.


Local councils know and can serve their citizens and families in a more responsive and less bureaucratic way than central government. Local government can set priorities and implement local policies in a way which is impossible at a national level and in a way which meets local priorities.

Colin Barrow, leader of Westminster City Council, comments:

Localism saves money by making services respond to citizens. As top performing councils we want the freedom to innovate and make the public sector more efficient. It is incumbent on us to say how we can do it. This is a beginning. There is much more we could do.

Edward Lister, leader of Wandsworth Council, comments:

To be successful in local government you have to dare to be different. There’s no reason why every council has to be the same. The secret lies in making the agencies responsible for spending public money accountable. Let the best-run councils take over some of the most heavily-centralised public services – they’ll do it better and they’ll save the taxpayer millions.

NOTES:

1. A Magna Carta for Localism: three practical steps to make localism real by Colin Barrow, Stephen Greenhalgh and Edward LIster is published on Wednesday 31 March 2010.

2. Colin Barrow CBE has been leader of Westminster City Council since 2008 after a 20 year career in industry and financial services. He also advises Shadow Treasury ministers on improving government productivity.

Stephen Greenhalgh became leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council in 2006 and is currently Managing Director of BIBA Medical Ltd. He is currently Head of the Conservative Councils Innovation Unit.

Edward Lister has been leader of Wandsworth Council since 1992. The council has raised in excess of £1 billion from strategic asset management policies and is virtually debt-free.

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