`LOCALISM`: THREE COMPETING MEANINGS AND POLITICS

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‘LOCALISM’: THREE COMPETING MEANINGS AND POLITICS
Jamie Gough
Department of Town and Regional Planning,
University of Sheffield,
Sheffield, S10 2TN,
England
[email protected]
Notes for a talk given at ICOSS, Sheffield University, June 2012
Section 2 given as a talk at the Historical Materialism conference, London, November 2012.
What are the meanings of ‘localism’ in England in recent decades?
‘Localism’ is the rage.
Subsidiarity: ‘Take decisions at lowest possible level’.
But quite different meanings and substantial implications.
Discourse often involves ‘community’ - also different meanings.
Sections:1. Descriptive history
2. Three ideal types of localism and community: their political-economic-spatial logics
3. New Labour’s different localisms: complementary, contradictory.
1. DESCRIPTIVE HISTORY
1979 – 1997 Conservatives
Government training programme => sub-regional Training and Enterprise Councils
Enterprise Zones: tax cuts
Urban Development Corporations: massive state intervention
1990s National programmes for poor areas (CC, SRB): involve local authorities and
communities.
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New Labour
Promise of localism –
- better planning, efficiency
- holism, joined up government
- democracy, participation
- citizenship, civic duty
- community
= Third Way ideology.
Initiatives at regional, local and neighbourhood level * From UK to Scotland, Wales governments ethnicity, cultural community
* From England to regions –
- Learning and Skills Councils (formerly TECs)
- English Regional Development Agencies
- Regional Spatial Strategies, Regional Housing Strategies
- Regional Assemblies
* From national to local –
- Local Strategic Partnerships
- Community Strategies
- Local Development Frameworks = more strategic
- mandatory citizen input into the above
- councils right to ask national government for new powers, after community consultation
- Local Area Agreements, MAAs
- strengthening council leadership through cabinet, mayors.
In cities:
- ‘Urban Renaissance’
- priority to brown field development.
* From national and local to neighbourhoods
- Neighbourhood Renewal Programme
- Housing Market Renewal Programme
- ‘Double-decentralisation’ to area and neighbourhood committees, which have input into
services
- Neighbourhood right to consultation on council services (Charters)
- Neighbourhood right to buy assets.
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ConDem Coalition
Promise of localism –
- less state
- more cost efficient
- more participation, freedom
- citizenship, ‘Big Society’
- community.
* Abolish the regional structures
=> their powers effectively devolved to local authorities and LEPs.
* More powers to local authorities –
More discretion for local authorities in budget heads (i.e. in what to cut)
Power of local authorities to operate in markets as they see fit (‘power of competence)
Power of LA to cut the national business rate (and pay Treasury for the difference!)
Mayors ‘for strong local government’
* Local differentiation in the public sector
Continued contracting out locally
Public service workers have right to set up own enterprise to run their unit
Public services: wages to vary by locality
* Devolution from councils to neighbourhoods, ‘communities’ and enterprises (private,
social)
Contracting out of LG services to social enterprises, voluntary organisations, unpaid
community groups as they demand
Transfer of assets to community groups
Each ‘area’ or ‘community’ to get its own budget (most of LA budget), decide what to spend
it on = ‘choice’
Decentralisation of land use planning to ad hoc neighbourhood groups; Community
Infrastructure Levy on developments goes to the neighbourhood
Weakening of the national planning framework: any ‘sustainable development’
More power for firms regarding –
- land use planning
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- environmental regulations
- health and safety
- employment law
etc.
Activist left
Local collective organisation against business or the state
‘Think globally, act locally’
- trade union actions
- public services (schools, hospitals...)
- housing
- public transport
- environment (roads, airports, power stations)
- global finance: Occupy in 900 cities.
2. THREE POLITICAL APPROACHES
A. Neoliberal
* Maximum fragmentation of decision making, to firm and individual/household level =>
- end national pay bargaining, fragment industrial relations
- fragment the state to smallest scale.
* Maximum mobility of capital and labour between territories at each scale, including
localities
Capital to low cost locations, labour to high wage locations
=> equalisation of territories.
* Localities compete on price, not quality of factors of production =>
- lower wages in poorer places
- reduce local taxes and council spending (including through national government control!)
- weaken local authority regulation of business to allow cost reductions.
* Competition between territories, which increasingly fragmented, drives down costs:
- competition between local authorities for inward investment on basis of low cost
- competition between neighbourhoods for services, for inward investment (Tesco!)
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- competition between service providers (state, third Sector, private) through contracting
out.
* ‘Choice’ for communities, individuals of services
=> fragmentation of provision.
Neoliberal project for space and locality –
* divide and subdivide space
* measure each locality by its costs
* maximise mobilities between localities, no embedding, no commitments.
Neoliberal project for ‘community’
A group formed ad hoc in order to further a shared interest, including financial, in
competition with other groups
= Public Choice Theory.
Overall neoliberal localism =
ConDems
Part of New Labour.
B. Social democratic, Keynesian, communitarian, associationalist
1. Decision making by firms and individuals but also collective, collaborative decisions
within economy and social life, for efficiency and equity
2. Some mobility of capital and labour but also some embeddedness within a territory,
commitment to it, to increase quality of production and products.
=> territories are sites for internal collaborations, discussion, and collective actions.
* Local policies to increase quality of production and products, through collaboration firmslabour-state
* Welfare and social services within localities to improve labour power, overcome social
disadvantage
* State policies to ensure infrastructures needed by business and residents
=> build political commitment of population ‘to the locality’
=> local partnerships of business, workers, residents and state
Scales of partnership = determined by - efficiency of production of goods and services
- equity between social groups and areas
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= national, regional, subregional, local, ‘area’, neighbourhood (workplace/ home) as
appropriate.
Collaboration within area  competition of the area with others.
Social democratic project for space and locality * a (partially) bounded territory
* production and social ties within the territory (as well as outside)
* quality of production and reproduction (not only price/cost).
Social democratic project for ‘community’
A group with strong internal daily interactions. Reciprocity, even altruism.
Long lasting.
= Part of New Labour.
C. Socialist
Capitalism serves human need poorly.
The state benefits ordinary people mainly when pushed from below.
=> Populations need to organise collectively to oppose and make demands on capital and
state
Need to overcome social divisions within population.
* Locality as a site of popular collaboration
* In economy, social life, and their inter-relations
* Build on - daily contacts and friendships between people locally
- traditions, especially of collectivity
- local knowledge
Socialist project for space and locality –
* Locality as a site of solidarity, face-to-face collaboration, and resistance
* But avoiding localism, competition with other local populations. Aiming to build solidarity
with them.
Socialist project for ‘community’
Community of people, not business or state
Based on daily contacts, caring.
Reciprocity and altruism.
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Oppositional community.
3. THE AMBIGUITIES OF NEW LABOUR’S LOCALISM
Overall neoliberal strategy.
Suppression of socialist resistance: maintenance of anti-trade union laws; no support for
resistance to capital; police repression of union, environmental and urban campaigns.
* But localism attempts to deal with the manifest failures of neoliberal markets
Organise non-market socialisation of production and social reproduction.
Uses social democratic localism.
At the local, non-national level, to avoid politicisation.
- RDAs attempt to organise industrial clusters
- CBD strategies attempt to promote FBS employment, associated commercial property
development and public space, and yuppy flats
- RSSs and HMRs attempt to organise housing provision in growth and decline regions
- New Deal for Communities attempt to organise the social, physical and environmental
underpinnings in poor areas of useful labour power, and head off riots
- Housing Market Renewal to improve housing of poor? OR create private housing market in
poor neighbourhoods?
- Priority to brown field sites attempts to reduce costs of new infrastructure, waste of existing
infrastructure
- State-led corridors of expansion of housing in south east, to ease housing shortage and
prices.
But many failures of these programmes, because of the neoliberal environment
- Failure to create jobs in the weak regions, spatially redistribute economic growth
=> inflationary growth in south east requires massive house and infrastructure building in the
green belt
- Central controls and restrictions on local authorities and on NDCs limits their ability to be
holistic
=> failures to engage population, generate political engagement
=> from 2006 attempts to engage populations at neighbourhood level.
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- New Deal for Communities: little social housing; no new jobs.
* Social democratic localism ends up having neoliberal effects
- RDAs end up competing for inward investment
- LSCs concentrate on basic skills training, not high-level skills
- neighbourhood empowerment fragments councils’ regulation and services...leading to the
ConDem’s reforms
- Housing Market Renewal ‘for poor’ evicts working class inhabitants, and new housing too
expensive for them <= gentrification is hidden aim.
* Overall
Contradictions between social democratic localism and national/local neoliberalism:- SD localism supports, patches up neoliberalism
- neoliberalism undermines SD localism
- SD localism ends up serving neoliberal aims.
CONCLUSION
‘Localism’ and ‘community’
= politics
= class relations.
The ideologies of localism rely on a spatial fetishism: fragmentation and decentralisation give
popular empowerment.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Eisenschitz, A. and Gough, J. (1993) The Politics of Local Economic Policy
Basingstoke: Macmillan: Chs 8 - 10
Eisenschitz, A. and Gough, J. (1998) Theorising the state in local economic governance,
Regional Studies 32 (8) 759-68
Gough, J. and Eisenschitz, A. (1996) The construction of mainstream local economic
initiatives: mobility, socialisation and class relations, Economic Geography, 76, 2, 178-95
Gough, J. (2002) Neoliberalism and socialisation in the contemporary city: opposites,
complements and instabilities, Antipode, 34 (3), 405-26
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Gough, J. (2004) ‘Changing scale as changing class relations: variety and contradiction in
the politics of scale’, Political Geography, 23 (2) 185-211
Gough, J. and Eisenschitz, A. (2006) Spaces of Social Exclusion, Abingdon: Routledge:
Part III
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