We are all invited to join the Government of Great Britain! The Coalition’s programme for government sets out its plans for a new era of local level control, soon to be enacted by the Decentralisation and Localism Act. This will see communities given the right to recall their MPs, sack their Head of Police, run schools and control other local services. The idea is certainly a radical one. I am sure that most people would like a greater say in the way our services are run, but do we actually want to run them?
Therefore, it came as a great surprise to me when, during a recent evening debate on the ways to regenerate a flagging rural market town, one local person stood up and rather than chastise the local Council for inaction, as is often the case, questioned what the community themselves might do. The age cohort of the audience was quite high and it was suggested by this person that local people could invest their pensions in local regeneration schemes. Not only might they get a better return on their investments than through their pension providers, they would also have a greater say in the development of their community. This idea was received with wide spread support and enthusiasm from the rest of the audience.
How might this be translated to transport projects which are generally provided as a public good. After all, community run transport infrastructure and services are rare. However, there are some examples that demonstrate successful locally led and managed transport services including community rail partnerships, locally run car parks, volunteer hospital transport, local toll bridges and volunteer bus services. More of these, and other similar ideas yet to be realised, might just be a good thing.
The application of localism is yet to be proven. However, those amongst us with a degree of scepticism in this regard, might yet be surprised by the appetite for it.