Sunday, 20 October 2013

Centralism in a Pickle

Eric Pickles always provides inspiration to write a blog. Today he was on the Sunday Politics show talking with Andrew Neil and the subject was localism. The article told us how, in opposition, David Cameron wanted a shift of power from Whitehall to local people. In 2009 David told us that "when one-size-fits-all solutions are dispensed from the centre it's not surprising they so often fail local communities". Never let it be said that I can't agree with Tory politicians.

However we are then told that in the last few months Eric has tried to ban local councils from using CCTV cameras and from using spy cars to fine motorists. He has criticised councils who wanted to raise more council tax. He has told them they have to allow for the bins when building houses (what's the definition of micromanagement?) and a few other directives by Eric were mentioned along the same centralism lines. This, on its own isn't too bad. Eric is allowed to have views that give more power to Whitehall even if he is a supporter of the Localism Act 2011. It may be the case that Eric can give many more examples for which he supports decision-making at a local level.

The problem is that Eric goes on to support the anti-localism points by saying that he is helping local people from Whitehall - and this is the sort of 1984 logic that really drives me to distraction, but I'll try to stick to the point. Eric says "localism is not about giving power to local councils. It's going beyond local councils to local people". Eric feels that there are many injustices being carried out and he gives one example in which he is simply trying to raise the importance of the town centre. It seems that at present there is five-minute parking leeway before a ticket is given and he wants this to be fifteen. Eric feels that it is important for local people to be able to buy a pint of milk and only Eric knows this, not the locally elected representatives. Wait a minute. I thought parking restrictions were there for a good reason. I have been missing out on this leeway and parking legally. How foolish of me! Maybe there are also good reasons why people who aren't disabled should park in disabled parking areas and I haven't been told about this too.

Eric may be in charge of planning and building regulations nationally but he is missing the point about localism. Local planning departments may be responsible to Eric but they have to interpret his regulations and that isn't Eric's job. If Eric really believes that sending directives from Whitehall is localism then he doesn't understand what localism means.

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