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PortraitneillShadow Local Government Minister Bob Neill MP reviews Big Ideas: Building on Conservative Fundamentals  published by Localis. Neill backs its call to set Councils free.

Localism is a buzzword that is used by politicians of every hue but this paper is a restatement of why it is Conservatives who have always been the genuine localist party.  It is our councils coming up with innovative and unique solutions needed to solve the very different problems that each council is faced with. They have all rejected Labour’s stateist centralised approach to government and worked for their residents.

The first case study comes from Cllr Eddie Lister, the Leader of Wandsworth Council and highlights how good local government is best achieved through fundamental Conservative principles.  The study shows how Wandsworth have delivered top quality services which are value for money and that’s why Conservatives have been in charge for 30 years.  That key Conservative principle of value for money coupled with efficient service delivery does not just lead to administrative success it is also hugely successful politically. 

Stephen Greenhalgh goes on to show how Conservative fundamentals can also redefine policy on “affordable housing”, which is not about creating dependency but about allowing people to fulfill the aspiration of home ownership.  His innovative take on the traditional Right to Buy scheme, which was such a vital driver of social mobility in the 1980s, is be applauded and should be an important lesson to Conservatives throughout the country.

Case studies from Colin Barrow, the new leader at Westminster and Paul
Carter, the Leader of Kent County Council show how councils are best
placed to go beyond improving existing services and address one of the
key issues that face society today, namely fixing our broken society. 

There is no doubt that society has suffered over the last 10 years from
Labour’s top down centrally driven targets and  it is really exciting
to see Conservative councils taking a much more holistic approach.
Westminster’s Family Recovery programme is all about tackling social
breakdown head on, being honest about the real problems and taking
early intervention to improve results for families and deliver major
cost savings. 

Like Westminster, Kent County Council has taken a joined up approach to
a key issue within that community. Changing education and skills needs
has led to the introduction of a14 to 24 Innovation Unit which extends
support to young people up to the range of 24, thus supporting the Kent
economy and reducing welfare dependency.   

These are just a few examples where councils have identified individual
problems and taken innovative action that delivers results. They trust
people, support families and deliver low tax and value for money. 

Conservatives are the dominant party in local government with over
9,000 councillors and this paper should be required reading. It
deserves a wide audience as this is not a theoretical wonkish policy
paper, this is written by practitioners so each approach has been road
tested and works.

Stephen Greenhalgh and James Morris are to be congratulated for having
put together a paper that has made a vital contribution to the debate
on innovation in local government and made a strong case for freeing
councils further to follow a truly localist agenda.

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