The Apollo Project
Liberal Ideas for the 21st Century
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Localism and Housing
by Peter

I know people only want to know who Mark Oaten's backers are at present, but once the election is over we have to start preparing for...well, we'll have to start preparing our manifesto.

So here are a couple of useful pointers.

In Public Finance, Profs Jones and Stewart have discuss localism. They say

Despite New Labour’s apparent conversion to ‘neighbourhood government’, the talk in town and county halls across the UK is of ‘super councils’. Ministers believe that bigger is better, and they are starting to use the dreaded ‘R’ word again. Reorganisation is back in fashion. But it would be a costly distortion of the energies and resources of both central and local government.

It is clear that the old technocratic urge for bigger councils still throbs in central government, and in parts of local government. While the 2004 referendum in the English Northeast was a setback for those wanting to impose standard regions, appointed regional quangos continue to suck up functions from local authorities. Champions of regionalism are also promoting a reorganisation based on city regions, forgetting that the city regions of the 1974 reorganisation, such as Avon and the metropolitan counties, were the least-accepted parts of the new structure.

and that

Mainland Europeans have found ways of combining small-scale community local government with larger-scale arrangements for delivery. They have recognised that local authorities do not always have to provide services themselves. They can use other institutions, such as central government outposts, or other, bigger local authorities, or consortiums of local authorities, or private-sector firms, or voluntary bodies, or combinations of them all.

There are probably still some fans of regions around in the Lib Dems. But some of our best minds (I refer to Steve Travis) have moved on. This articles provides a useful message for us.

In the Guardian, Malcom Dean has been looking at housing, on the basis of a book by Chris Holmes

Holmes, who has spent 30 years working in housing and homelessness organisations, sets out some important lessons: do not sacrifice quality for numbers, as happened in the 50s; seek to diversify communities; and do not believe that social housing gives too much priority to housing needs. "The problem is not that people who are poor live in social housing," he argues. "It is that they are too often all housed together on the same estates."

His aim is not to produce another era of mass housing projects, but rather much more diversified housing types and tenure, including: self-built homes, shared ownership, market renting and socially rented, resident-controlled cooperatives and tenant managed homes, as well as owner occupied.

Liberal sort of ideas, in principle. Personally I would add to this mix some provision for shops and other business. Social segregation is pretty bad. Segregation from economic activity may just be worse.
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 9:41 am  
  • At 11 January, 2006 12:03, Blogger Martin said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • At 11 January, 2006 12:05, Blogger Martin said…

    One thing that's often overlooked is that many counties (especially the historical ones) are at least as big as various US states, German Länder etc etc. Also that most countries do not have the homogenous bureaucratically tidy regional structure that Labour and the civil service were trying to inflict on us. (And now the plug for my website). You can play with all the various combinations at Construct-a-region. Interestingly the most popular 'regions' constructed so far are London (big) and Cornwall (small).

  • At 11 January, 2006 12:09, Blogger Peter Pigeon said…


  • At 11 January, 2006 13:07, Blogger Martin said…

    Bizarrely, my post from 12:05 shows up when you hit the edit button, but not on the main page.

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"What is Liberalism?: I should say it means the acknowledgment in practical life of the truth that men are best governed who govern themselves; that the general sense of mankind, if left alone, will make for righteousness; that artificial privileges and restraints upon freedom, so far as they are not required in the interests of the community, are hurtful; and that the laws, while, of course, they cannot equalise conditions, can at least avoid aggravating inequalities, and ought to have for their object the securing to every man the best chance he can have of a good and useful life." C-B.


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