Thursday, 8 July 2010

Will the Eric Pickles Local Liberation be a Soviet One?

And by that I mean liberation from one form of dictatorship to be replaced by another.

There are some interesting words spoken by Eric Pickles in regards the change in culture in regards to Local Councils*, though his imagery of his substantial bulk coming to the rescue of people "chained to the radiator by red tape" is a bit creepy. Nightmares and cold sweats for a few, I suspect*.

The problem is it all gets rather Communitarian. Devolving power from an elected centre is good if and only if it goes to the individual or, if truly unworkable, to some form of elected local body.

"By taking powers away from bureaucrats and quangos and from me. And restoring powers to communities and elected officials." - Eric Pickles

Who are these "communities"? Who gives them authority? Who vets them? Are they elected? Who can throw them out? Is there plurality?

If you restore powers, you restore them to Individuals, who are, in truth, the "community". In fact there is no "community" unless you think of individuals. Power to the community should mean power to individuals who then decide how they, each and for their own reasons, organise by consent.

You might get two groups in a community. "Would that not cause chaos?", say some. Well, what is the alternative? A form of monopoly? That is what the State is comfortable with. Plurality seems to scare the bejeebus out of it. So is it going to be the Local Authority handing over power to its pet Community Group? One might think Central Govt would not want to be making such decisions, but this would not surprise me, for they are doing the vetting for Schools centrally, aren't they?

But wait...

"And new local housing trusts, with backing from the community, will be able to develop new homes, shops, and businesses themselves.

Really? Backing from the community? How will that happen? What if there is less than unanimous support? What if there are competing projects? I do believe we will have some form of arbiter and who is that going to be? If it is the Local Council, then nothing changes, frankly. Same old mates, "regeneration" and diversion of public money into private projects.

But I will move on an upbeat note. Eric did go on to talk about reduction in red tape and needless regulations. We do, however, need to ensure that PEPOLE are the ones who's interest is to be served by ending regulations. The last thing we want is for local councils to suggest rules and regulations that protect the community from their machinations, but in general it is a sensible and long overdue initiative. I am far more confident about that than the earlier Communitarian guff which I find, frankly, quite dangerous.

One final point I noticed:

"Putting jobs on the web - in a format anyone can re-use or re-publish - not only shows local people where their money is going.
The key here is "in a format anyone can re-use". This means there is absolutely NO REASON to build some over-priced, under-performing, wheezing website, but just a repository and an existing industry-standard API for retrieving the data. No, we do not want a new standard. No, we do not want a new protocol. Just publish as others do so aggregators can put those jobs out to the wider world.

We will then see the Guardian exposed to the realities of life, not sucking on the teat of the State via its monopoly on state sector job advertising.

Of course, we know that the Guardian believes in this sector, so it is quite at liberty to continue to publish the jobs online or in print if it wishes. Maybe it should become a true recruitment site so those who apply via the Guardian gain that publication a finders fee. I have no problems with that as long as the fee is the same for all republishers.

P.S. One final bit of disingenuous Sovereignty gap-covering from Eric:

"The HIPs which tied up the housing market.
And what about the Energy Certificate, dictated by the EU, Eric? We still need to wait for a clipboarder to perform that farcical blessing ceremony to the Great Green God. What do they think it is, Feng Shui?

* and one or two hot sweats in there for good measure, I'd wager. Each to his/her own.


Mark Wadsworth said...

"Really? Backing from the community? How will that happen? "

Don't worry about that - these schemes require 80% local approval or something, so the Home-Owner-Ists will still be able to stamp their boot on the faces of the priced out generation.

It would be untenable for a minority of priced out people to share the spoils at the expense of the Home-Owner-Ist majority, wouldn't it?

Roger Thornhill said...

I'd like to hear how you mutate "80% approval" into "stamping".

Are you saying that non-residents should be able to force projects on residents, when those non-residents do not even have capital to pay for those projects?