Did Santa Claus visit the House of Commons early? What a gift the Communities secretary delivered for local authorities this week, “a new era of people power”, “overturning decades of central government control”, and the ability to “set up banks, develop property, run new services and own assets”… he could have finished his speech with a hearty ho-ho-ho… if only it were that simple.
Is the much vaunted Localism Bill simply just a great experiment in buck-passing? Does every local authority across the country possess the resources, wherewithal and the ability to systematically overhaul decades of bureaucratic housing delivery in such a seismic shift?
Theoretically devolving powers is a no-brainer, local people want control over local services. This, however, is very different from stating that, in every local authority, people have the aforementioned ability to prudently and promptly capitalise on opportunities that benefit their area, whilst maintaining their ‘immunity to NIMBY-ism’ .
With an estimated 5 million people stuck on a social housing waiting list, change is welcome. It remains to be seen how local authorities grasp this opportunity. The abolition of lifetime tenancies, enabling fixed-term tenancies as short as two years, and allowing local authorities to set their own criteria for inclusion on a waiting list, all open up an array of possibilities.
I suspect the proven formula for getting localism right will take quite some time. There will be a raft of terrible concepts, and some inspired applications of localism. Hopefully those most in need are not left waiting too long for examples of best-practice appear…