July newsletter: Localism in an age of Brexit

July newsletter: Localism in an age of Brexit

Localism in an age of Brexit

How did such a binary question turn out to be so much more than the sum of its parts? Will a reconfigured British state reflective of ruthlessly exposed political chasms now emerge? Where will the impacts of Brexit be felt most acutely?

In the days that follow the referendum result, none of these questions can be answered with much confidence. Withdrawal will take a number of years and we do not yet know who will lead the country in three months’ time, let alone what divorce from the European Union looks like.

For local authorities already wary of turbulence ahead these uncertainties will, driven by a number of factors, only heighten their sense of risk.

Firstly and as warned throughout the campaign, if the economy falters – perhaps into recession – this could mean further cuts to local authority budgets. Decreasing financial dependence on central government could mitigate the impact, but shortfalls will still be felt through exposure to fluctuations in business rates revenue. This could mean cuts to service provision and/or tax rises; coming at a time when the electorate is fresh from being promised what seemed like everything to everyone.

Secondly there is also the risk that in a crowded field, local government does not have its voice heard during Brexit negotiations. With so much local funding currently derived from the EU it is essential that this is not the case. Negotiation cannot simply be an exercise of displacing authority from Brussels to Westminster. In this regard it is encouraging that Sadiq Khan has underlined how ‘crucial [it is] that London has a voice at the table’ and other local leaders have followed.

Finally there is a real risk that the devolution agenda will stall. Not only will the legislative programme over the next few years be dominated by Brexit, but the civil service will be engaged in a turf war with other central departments, making devolving power less of a priority. On top of this, the main architect of the ‘devolution revolution’ is unlikely to remain Chancellor for much longer.

The UK has taken back control but at what price?

The above article was an opinion piece written by Localis’s Jack Airey for the MJ. It can be read in full on their website.

Localis appoints new Chief Executive

Last month we announced that Liam Booth-Smith has been appointed as Localis’s new Chief Executive.With a decade’s worth of experience working in and around politics and public policy, Liam joins Localis from his current role as Head of Research and Communications at the consultancy iMPOWER. Before that he was Head of Communications and External Affairs at the think tank NLGN. He is a regular commentator in the media on politics and culture.

Commenting on his announcement, Liam Booth-Smith said: “It’s a privilege to become the new Chief Executive of Localis, particularly at a time when our politics is so in need of new ideas and creativity. Localis will continue to be at the forefront of the devolution debate, providing politicians and policy makers with the intellectual firepower to change government and public services for the better. In tackling the most pressing economic and social challenges out society faces Localis will help to explain what the next iteration of localism looks like. I look forward to working with my new team at Localis, Sir Merrick and the board, and all of Localis’s members and partners to make this a reality.”

Sir Merrick Cockell, Chairman of the Board of Localis, said: “Localis was created to further the cause of decentralised politics and to help provide the intellectual rigour and research needed to make the case. Much has been achieved and the view that power should be passed from Whitehall to the regions, cities and to individuals is in the ascendance. Liam is joining Localis at the perfect time to lead the debate on the next stages of localism by grounding it in daily life and not simply political structures. He brings real experience, challenge and drive that will not only help lead the debate but also the policy agenda.”

Liam formally begins his position on 25th July.

Works in progress

Variable housing markets

We are currently working on a research project which considers the variation of housing markets across the country, what that means for national policy, and what a more local approach might look like. The project, supported by Lloyds Banking Group, will include three roundtable events across the country and will culminate in a pamphlet to be published in mid-August.

Can devolution catalyse a sustainable health and care service?

We are partnering with KPMG on a major piece of thought leadership looking at what a more locally-oriented care system in England will look like and how it will be managed. The report will consider how a more local approach could hold the key to making advances in prevention, integration, personalisation and financial sustainability. The report will be launched next week alongside a roundtable.

Whole council approaches to transformation

In partnership with the Local Government Association (LGA) we will soon be publishing research on the variety of models local authorities have used when taking a whole-council approach to transformation. This includes models such as cooperative, commissioning and entrepreneurial approaches.

The Future of London

In September in collaboration with the think tank Bright Blue and the City of London we will publish a collection of essays on the future of London. The publication will consider how changes in transport, culture, family life, finance, housing, health and a whole range of different areas will alter the way Londoners live their lives in the middle of the twenty-first century. We have recruited the stellar lineup of leading thinkers, decision makers and industry champions who will propose radical, original ideas for London’s future in our essay collection.

Upcoming events

Local empowerment: How to achieve a sustainable health and care service

From foundation trusts to the introduction of Sustainability and Transformation Plans, local influence over the health and care service has gradually increased over the past decade – though the system is still heavily centralised and degrees of devolution highly variable. In a forthcoming report to be published in early July, new research by Localis in association with KPMG builds on this progression, looking forward to how a step-change in devolution could empower local public service leaders to address some of the perennial issues that affect the health and care service. On 12th July, we will be holding a roundtable event in London to launch the report, with attendees to include senior stakeholders from across the health and care service, local government and parliament .

Future of London launch

This September we will hold a panel event to launch a joint essay collection between Localis and Bright Blue on the future of London with essayists including Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP, Sir Peter Bazalgette and Sir Terry Farrell. The event will be held in the City with speakers to include essayists and politicians. Look out for invites with further details soon.

‘Home truths: national housing policy isn’t working – time for a localist approach?’

The UK is in the midst of a housing crisis. A lack of affordable housing has resulted in many families being unable to afford to buy their first home and many are spending an increasing large proportion of their incomes on rents. It is time to ask if a nationwide, one size fits all approach to housing policy is delivering. Is it now time to consider a more localist approach? Localis with be hosting roundtable events in Bristol and Andover this week, in partnership with Lloyds Banking Group, to bring together senior representatives from across local government and the wider housing community to discuss this important issue.


With conference season soon approaching, we are currently putting together our programmes for the party conferences. If you are interested in working in partnership with Localis at these events, please click here to read about how you can work with us further or email info@localis.org.uk to discuss potential collaboration.