Tuesday 6 October 2015

The Localisation agenda

Mark Thomas, thanks Who's laughing now
In the last couple of weeks I've heard, read, seen and been inspired by the unholy alliance of Mark Thomas, George Osborne and James McKay - all very different political animals, but all identifying the need for 'localisation', albeit for different reasons.

"General rabble rouser and alleged comedian Mark Thomas" (MET police description) was on at the MAC for 'Trespass', his latest tour, and associated demo in London.  The most overtly political of the three, sets out his stall clearly - It's all about keeping public public, halting creeping capitalism and the right to Loiter dressed as Shaun the sheep.  'Localisation agenda' for Mark is more a grassroots human rights issue.

George Osborne gave his shock announcement yesterday, apparently signing over powers from central to local government to keep the rates they collect from business.  There were a few caveats - the right is to lower business rates in a new competitive marketplace, with added privileges for councils/ citizens willing to play along with the new 'mayoral' system.  You might cynically say he is passing the buck for responsibility of cuts, while introducing yet more dogmatic competitive free market thinking.  He is at least recognising the need for more local control of business, services and community action - localisation in terms Wikipedia defines as the opposite of economic globalisation.

James McKay's resigned as cabinet member for social cohesion and community safety today.  His resignation is more revealing in what it omits - what is the convincing vision to unlock enthusiasm from 'partners' across the city? Does it have anything to do with localisation?  I'm sure this is a story that we'll hear more about soon.

'Localisation' in the West Midlands has a local champion in 'Localise West Midlands', helpfully compiling key documents and setting out a history of localisation, spanning a couple of decades. **

We have seen local steps to localisation supported locally too (in Kings heath, of course!)  Many local groups are still thriving under harsh austerity with BCC support.  The ones I've been involved in include Swan Corner Community Group, Parks for Play, Kings Heath Residents Forum, 20s plenty campaign and Playing out.  The key factor with all these organisations, and their success, has always been encouraging and supporting the enthusiasm of members to be able to make the difference locally themselves - financial support is important, but wasted without 'localisation'.

What I would question, particularly George Osborne, is not whether local activism and industry is better with local control, but whether the wealthy multi-nationals, businesses and individuals are willing to pass over their control - to allow localisation to counter economic globalisation making the rich richer and the poor poorer.

**Forgot to mention Chamberlain Files, who penned interesting blog about James McKay's resignation too: