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Localism is the key to levelling up, according to new report

A new report published by the Queen Mary’s Mile End Institute and the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) recommends a localised approach to empowering communities in a post-Covid age.

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A new report recommends a localised approach to empowering communities in a post-Covid age.
A new report recommends a localised approach to empowering communities in a post-Covid age.

The report, Power Down To Level Up: Resilient Place-shaping for a Post-Covid World, sets out a number of recommendations for improving governance in England. Co-authored by Dr Patrick Diamond from Queen Mary’s School of Politics and International Relations, the report also highlights the problems and inequities in the delivery of local services.

Returning to pre-Covid ‘normality’ not an option

According to the report the Covid-19 pandemic has shone a light on the failings of governance. In particular it explores how recent reorganisation of local councils has reflected central government priorities and not those of local communities. It highlights crisis issues in council finance, social care, housing as well as local services as examples of the failures.

The report sets out a number of recommendations for addressing these issues. The first calls for place-orientated strategies to give local people a say in decisions that affect their lives, and devolve power further, away from the centre. Another recommendation centres on increasing fiscal devolution, including giving local councils the ability to set business rate relief rather than central government.

Citizen-centred approach

The report also sets out an approach for citizen-centred public services, organising power and resources to reflect local needs as well as building relationships with those communities. One of the key priorities according to the report is also focused on cutting bureaucracy and removing centrally imposed targets as well as allowing for more autonomy to direct spending locally.

Another key recommendation is for there to be a strengthening of local public health. The report cites the Covid19 crisis as an important public health lesson and an argument for locally led initiatives. The need for a sustainable economy post-Covid is also highlighted as an important priority with local councils playing a key role in matching job opportunities with unmet needs in communities and neighbourhoods.

Dr Patrick Diamond, Senior Lecturer in Public Policy at Queen Mary and co-author of the report said: “This paper argues that place-shaping provides local authorities with a strategic lens and blueprint to lead in an era of disruption and complexity. The key question is how best to promote the resilient place-shaping agenda in English governance in the climate created by the twin shocks of Covid-19 and Brexit.” 

More information

The Mile End Institute at Queen Mary University of London is a major policy centre established at Queen Mary University of London. It brings together research, policy-making and public debate to deepen and challenge understandings of British politics, governance and public policy to address the major political challenges of our time.

LGIU (Local Government Information Unit) is a local authority membership organisation. Our members are councils and other organisations with an interest in local government from across England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Australia.