True devolution? Has localism merely meant passing power to unelected micro-quangos?

Posted: July 17, 2014 in devolution, localism, mercia, mercian regionalists, north east party, northumbria, transition towns
Professor Richard Batley, University of Birmingham (School of Government and Society) writes in the FT: “Constitutional devolution, convincingly argued, could be attractive in England, as well as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland . .. . Westminster seems not to appreciate that irritation at the centralisation of power and wealth in London is not confined to the Scots”.

A historical perspective is given by the LSE’s Professor Tony Travers: “At the turn of the 20th century, local government ran nearly all public services in Britain . . . Parliament, with an empire to run, busied itself dealing with the colonies, dominions and war . . .” He continued:

“By common consent, the UK is (now) a highly centralised country. Most taxes are set by the chancellor, while decisions that in most democracies would be made in town halls are handed down from desks in Whitehall . . . In countries as diverse as the US, Sweden, Germany and France, municipalities play a far greater part in democracy. . ..

“The northeast wisely rejected a toothless regional assembly in 2004. The current government, like its predecessor, has struggled to deliver “localism”, which has generally meant passing power from councils to unelected micro-quangos such as schools, clinical commissioning groups and local enterprise partnerships”.

Following an earlier contribution on devolution the writer asked, “Will it happen?” Philip Hosking answered: “It already has: in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London. If we want it enough we will get it”.

He continued: “There is much movement in English regionalist circles at the moment with Yorkshire First, Yorkshire Devolution Movement, Northumbria People, Hannah Mitchell Foundation and more besides.

“Perhaps now is the time to relaunch Mercian / Middle England’s aspirations for devolution. What with the referendum in Scotland I think England’s regions (plus Cornwall) together need to make a clear, coherent case for a decentralised England that’s not just city regions, LEPs or government zone regions”. 
Taken from the Localise West Midlands blog.
As a general update on English regionalism, as well as the above group, mention should be made of the new North East Party formed only recently by  ex-labour man Hilton Dawson.
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