May 2015 saw another election victory for the Conservative party in a UK general election, as they formed a majority government at Westminster. Many are concerned about the social equity issues arising from some of the policy decisions already announced, not least the £12 billion in welfare cuts announced in the July budget. However, as we suggest in our paper past research shows we should not be surprised about the direction policy is taking – Julian LeGrand’s work analysing the spending priorities implicit in the cuts meted out by the Thatcher government between 1979 and 1983 showed not only that they were focused on welfare, but that they protected “middle class” services such as education and health. These are also the services that Conservative voters were most likely to use. Continue reading Protecting the services of the middle classes
by Christine Cheyne, Member of the Policy & Politics Editorial Advisory Board and Associate Professor, School of People, Environment and Planning at Massey University, New Zealand
I’m always drawn to ‘edge-y’ articles – or writing that decenters, provokes and challenges – and this issue does not disappoint. The article by Andrew Ryder, Gypsies and Travellers a Big or Divided Society, offers a fresh perspective on the localism debate that has characterised recent UK public policy. Although much less a feature of other jurisdictions, the localism debate in the UK that has some resonance for readers in many parts of the world as it highlights long-standing tensions in democratic theory between statism and localism. These tensions, I would argue, have been exploited by higher levels of government in many parts of the world (including my own country, New Zealand) since the 2008 global financial crisis. Ryder shows with his case study of the treatment of Gypsy and Traveller site provision under the new localist planning system that even though overt state intervention is resiled from, localism can be a new form of control of local politics and can exacerbate inequalities and social exclusion which might otherwise be mitigated through central planning guidance or redistributive policies. Ryder asserts Habermas’s deliberative democratic ideal in making a case for a ‘new centralism’, an inclusive governance that recognizes a role for a central state to protect vulnerable minorities, but which also insists on participatory and deliberative democratic processes so that localism doesn’t become (or increase) NIMBY-ism.
Provoking some further intellectual discomfort, climate change is a profoundly complex public policy challenge to which meaningful responses continue to be lacking. While the focus is often, appropriately, on younger age groups and the implications for their lifestyles, Wistow et al. draw attention to the realities for a particularly vulnerable group in our society, the dependent elderly, who are less visibly but, arguably, more seriously disadvantaged by extreme weather events associated with climate change that can damage and destroy built infrastructure. With an ageing population dependent on electricity supply, not just for domestic heating (or cooling), but also for provision of medical care such as hoists, oxygen supplies and dialysis, contemplating the adverse consequences of disruption from extreme weather events is sobering. Wistow et al. provide detailed data from interviews and focus groups about the risks and options to address them. Even if 50 is the new 30, readers will be challenged to think about the implications for the ageing/dependent groups – if not ourselves then our older family members from whom we are often living at some distance. Localism has much yet to deliver both for our most vulnerable groups but for all of us experiencing climate change. Getting the balance between central and local leadership and community participation is critical.
You can read the whole January 2015 issue of Policy & Politics here.
by Annette Hastings, University of Glasgow
“To each that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance, but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.“ The Gospel according to Matthew, 13:12.
I don’t tend to quote the Bible (or indeed any religious text) very often. This Biblical reference does however draw attention to the fact that we have been concerned about the so-called ‘Matthew effect’– or the law of accumulated advantage – for some considerable time. The research (and indeed the policy community) have been rather reluctant to devote very much time and effort to understanding how and why those who are already in positions of advantage are better able to extend that advantage, in comparison to deprived social groups, when it comes to interacting with the local state and in particular public services.
In our free- to- download paper (further evidence that the more you have the more you get!) Peter Matthews from Stirling University and I use an understanding of class interests derived from the work of Pierre Bourdieu to try to understand how it is that public policy processes can empower the already powerful. Continue reading Does ‘Localism’ empower the already powerful? And what do we know about how this happens?