Democracy

We need to remake democracy

This post originally appeared on the website of  Compass – an organisation that fights for a more equal, democratic and sustainable society.

In 1934 the political historian RH Tawney said that the UK is ‘the oldest and toughest plutocracy in the world’.  Our democracy has been unjust for a very long time – too ready to doff its hat to privilege and wealth.

We have had years of scandals as regards cash for questions, the power of lobbyists, and dubious parliamentary expense claims. The recent Brexit debate and paralysis has further revealed the deep problems. Brexit has seeped into the rotten cracks of our democracy and parliamentary processes and made them chasms.  Our democracy and ‘mother of all’ parliaments is in bad shape, it has now been fully exposed:  arcane, archaic and addled.  Unable to represent properly and inchoate.  It sets the tone for our wider democracy and it is increasingly discordant.

Taking forward New Municipalism in London

Following years of austerity, wealth extraction and an economy incapable of responding to social needs, the global New Municipalist movement is taking root here in the UK.  In a new publication, New Municipalism in London, the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) introduces this new concept and, with the London Boroughs of IslingtonHackney and Camden, shows how it is being taken forward.

Like many world cities, London is both a beacon of extravagant wealth (London is the fifth wealthiest city in the world) and grinding poverty (27% of London’s citizens live in poverty).  Huge levels of speculative investment and gentrification are pricing ordinary Londoners, communities and businesses out of their own city.  Councils reeling from austerity and cuts to vital services are now contending with hollowed out local economies, denuded services and social pain.  New Municipalism is a deep intentional fightback against this status quo.  It rejects trickle down  inclusion after growth, and recognises that service transformation and ‘more for less’ system change is inadequate.

  • Metro mayors: three ways to reset local strategy

    Next week, on May 5th, newly elected metro mayors in six combined authorities begin their first day in office. This is an historic opportunity to reset policy and address longstanding economic and social issues, as Neil McInroy and Victoria Bettany outline below.

    To date, policy opinion and mayoral manifestos have offered a laudable, but often limited, set of tactical policy innovations, including cheaper transport for sections of the population, actions around a living wage, housing affordability and tackling youth unemployment. Given the scale of the challenge, these may not be enough to successfully reset strategic policy. Rather, three key things need to happen.

    1. Re-organise the economics of devolution

    Financial investment and return has dominated the economics of devolution, hence the focus on property development and land value appreciation in city centres and other hotspots. Indeed, this focus has been over-egged in devolution deals through economic agglomeration and ‘earnback’ on growth. If this trickle-down approach is retained, we can expect the deepening of geographic divides across the combined authorities, with little significant increase in new or decent jobs. Of course, a focus on financial return is a universal component to city success but it should only be a part of the mix, and not take undue precedence over other forms of economic development and social investment.

    The Spring Budget: Robin Hood in Reverse?

    In the Budget, wealthy businesses in thriving parts of the country were granted a smoother transition to their new higher business rates bill. This easing-in period for successful businesses will be subsidised by a “fair” increase in National Insurance Contributions by 1% to 10% for the self-employed – raising £145m a year by 2021/22.

  • Frances Jones

    Associate Director

  • Tom Lloyd Goodwin

    Associate Director

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