Sometimes localism means handing power down to councils (for instance in terms of planning decisions). Sometimes it means councils losing power as it handed down to the people (for instance free schools). It also means giving councils incentives rather than instructions (for instance on the Council Tax freeze and weekly bin collections).The Guardian reports that the Communities and Local Government Select Committee have complained about this being "incoherent". They fret that there isn't an official definition of localism.
I haven't yet had a chance to read the full report properly but it does seem to be concerned with process and defining the term rather than substance. Communities Secretary Eric Pickles told his civil servants not to bother when they suggest going away and drawing up a definition of localism. He could tell that would be a recipe for delay.
While the Select Committee Chairman, Labour MP Clive Betts, is fretting about the term localism, the Government are getting on with the job of making it a reality.
The best riposte to the committee comes from this Written Answer from Baroness Hanham earlier this week.
"The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): Yes. Decentralising power and lifting the unnecessary burdens and red tape that tie the hands of local councils and local communities is a priority for the Government.
As an illustration of this cross-government agenda of decentralisation, the Department for Communities and Local Government has taken many positive steps to free local councils from unnecessary central rules, intervention and guidance, including:
the abolition of comprehensive area assessment;
the abolition of regional spatial strategies through the Localism Bill;
the withdrawal of guidance on annual monitoring reports and local development framework monitoring;
the curtailment of best value guidance, the abolition of the two tier code and removing associated statutory duties;
the revocation of planning guidance imposing Whitehall density targets and restricting the number of parking spaces for new homes;
the abolition of Whitehall guidance on road closures which hindered local street parties;
the abolition of the National Indicator Set and Place Surveys;
the abolition of 4,700 local area agreement targets;abolition of the top-down Government Offices for the Regions;
the phasing out of ring-fenced grants; and
the introduction of a general power of competence via the Localism Bill.
Further decentralising work is being undertaken-such as reducing the burden of data reporting to central government through the new Single Data List, and curtailing the 1,000 pages of planning guidance via the new, succinct National Planning Policy Framework."
> Tuesday's ToryDiary: Is the Government as localist as we are led to believe?