The Localism Bill sets out the legislative framework for David Cameron’s “Big Society”.
The bill, being pushed by Tory communities and local government secretary Eric Pickles, claims to devolve power to communities. In reality, it is an reactionary and ideological bill.
The bill aims to legislate in three areas: local government, planning and housing.
The most direct attack on the working class comes in the housing reforms.
These could end secure tenancies for future council tenants, push up the rents of new “social” housing to
80 percent of the market rate and force homeless families into the private rented sector.
Together with caps on housing benefit, these changes could create a vicious cycle of insecure, unaffordable, low-quality housing.
Private companies and voluntary organisations will be able to bid for council contracts and “challenge” public services.
At significant cost, councils will have to consider such challenges and potentially open them to a process that could see services transferred to seemingly benign “social enterprises”.
But private companies know that once a service is out to tender it will be open to all bidders.
Community groups will also be able to bid to take over facilities like libraries or post offices.
It’s a particularly cynical move when many of these services are being forced to close.
Planning reforms would allow local resident groups to block planning applications.
This means elected planning committees would lose powers either to “neighbourhood” groups or, ironically, to central government.
The property development industry will welcome the watering down of energy efficiency targets for new homes and reduced planning scrutiny.
Trade unions, tenant organisations and genuine community organisations must unite to defeat the bill.
Localism could be the government’s legacy—or its epitaph.