Localism Ahead: Empowering Communities for Effective Governance


The Government elected after the next UK General Election, regardless of their political persuasion, must embark on a fundamental review of the systems of local authority funding, local taxation, and delivery of social care services. House of Commons Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee.

Social care should lead the way in a paradigm shift to localism

In the wake of mounting challenges facing local authorities across the United Kingdom, the imperative for a comprehensive review of local governance structures, funding mechanisms, and service delivery frameworks has never been more pressing.  

The House of Commons Levelling Up Committee has sounded the alarm on the financial distress gripping many local authorities, highlighting the urgent need for reform.

Central to this call for change is recognising the need for a paradigm shift away from the present system.  

Modifying the current top-down system by decentralising it would not be a paradigm change; it would be no more than reorganising the system’s structure.  The underlying aims, objectives and standards would remain the same.

Sooner or later, any top-down system will become unaffordable.  It is an unavoidable aspect of a shrinking economy.

Localism requires decision-making powers and resources to be devolved to communities, enabling them to tailor solutions that best address their unique needs and circumstances.  

While the concept of localism is not new, its potential application in areas such as social care presents a compelling opportunity for transformative change.

Social care, in particular, stands as a potential beacon for advancing localism. 

The current approach to social care provision is fundamentally wrong; It is both financially unsustainable and uncaring.  It is a system of care which, no matter how well-meaning, is not much more than a package of support services.  With tick-box management control to ensure Care Quality Commission standards are met.

Care homes are an example of so-called care, devoid of the kind of care a family provides. 

The fact that they make profits for shareholders of the shared equity companies who own the care home companies may be disliked by those who think that capitalism should not intrude on social care. 

I think the immorality of transferring family care to institutionalised systems of support is the best reason for seeking a different way of caring for those unable to care for themselves.   This is not to criticise the families who put their relatives away because there is no financially viable way of keeping them at home if they have to go out to work.

Extended families within proactive local communities can take ownership of their social care systems by embracing localism, fostering innovation, responsiveness, and accountability, and taking responsibility for their relatives.

If this is accepted as an eventual solution to the present disorganising and deteriorating system, local authorities should introduce a staged system, enabling localism to be introduced.  Each done in their way.  At first, fully funded with the explicit aim of shifting financial accountability to individuals.  

Perhaps the most important (and unpopular) legal change implied by social localism would be to make relatives of those needing care responsible for their care. 

In the shrinking economy, the benefits of localism extend beyond the realm of social care, encompassing broader governance and community development objectives.  Empowering communities to participate more actively in decision-making fosters civic engagement, enhances accountability, and strengthens social cohesion.  Moreover, localised solutions are often more responsive to communities’ diverse needs and preferences, promoting inclusivity and resilience.

As the United Kingdom stands at a critical juncture, the Government elected after the next General Election must seize the opportunity to embrace localism as a guiding principle for governance.  

By localising decision-making, we can unlock the full potential of our localities, drive sustainable development, and foster a more equitable and resilient society for all.

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Radix is the radical centre think tank. We welcome all contributions which promote system change, challenge established notions and re-imagine our societies. The views expressed here are those of the individual contributor and not necessarily shared by Radix.

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