Decentralisation & the DTA

David Prout (Director General for Communities, CLG) at #DTAconference10 yesterday described:

4 kinds of decentralisation –

  • centralised decentralisation (government says how to do it) – eg GPs, elected police commissioners
  • bottom-up decentralisation (seeking additional decision-making powers) – eg community-based budgeting, London Mayoral powers
  • liberal decentralisation (has to be done but you choose how to do it) – eg planning reform, LEPs
  • creative decentralisation (rights-based agenda) – eg free schools, Community Right to Bid

If this is the framework, I think we could help David with more/better policy examples, based on the practice of our members and the wider local change movement.

For example…

  • Centralised – climate change. Rob Hopkins at #DTAconference10 was clear that only strong governments can sort out climate change. David Prout fudged it, putting the responsibility for climate change with individuals, communities and Europe (anywhere but Whitehall)
  • Bottom-up – loads of examples from development trusts, settlements and social action centres where more localised decision-making would be liberating, but also situations where just handing over to the local authority (especially in such hard times) could be seriously unproductive
  • Liberal – the LEPs process has been fairly weird so far, with disagreements between ministers on the fundamentals of whether they must be ‘approved’ (Vince Cable, Mark Prisk) or not (Eric Pickles, originally). The mad thing is they don’t seem to have learned anything from the enormously painful, expensive but ultimately quite useful establishing of LSPs (what’s going on with LSPs at the moment, I never seem to hear much about them?). Anyway I think a few important things fit in here – eg meanwhile assets (govt can make clear that it is firmly in favour of empty shops and other underused assets being put to good uses and provide a simple source of seed-corn funding to encourage kick-starting).
  • Creative – this is where we need to help shape the policy more directly. The Community Rights (however twee) are actually very important and have great potential jeopardised if we let civil servants put it together without us.

These are just some early thoughts… all comments welcome. Below some reminders of the strength of the movement and some of its core values.

Highlights of the Development Trusts Association’s member survey 2010

  • There are 492 development trusts across the UK
  • 28% of the UK population has access to development trusts.
  • They have a combined income of £272m, of which £157m is earned income
  • £565m of assets are in community ownership
  • 6,700 staff and 19,400 volunteers work with development trusts
  • Development trusts provide support to almost 10,800 community groups and over 8,000 small businesses
  • Development trusts engage in a wide range of community focussed activities and services.

The DTA manifesto – still very relevant

The community enterprise movement, and our 492 development trusts in particular, are a great success story.

In the face of global uncertainties and the economic downturn, we offer a community-led solution, increasing confidence and pride, bringing out the best in people, improving relationships between different groups, stimulating local economic activity, and improving stewardship of scarce resources.

We make five pledges:

  • to help every community set up an effective development trust
  • to promote community ownership of land and buildings
  • to grow a culture of community enterprise
  • to build alliances with partners in all sectors
  • to demonstrate community impact

We call on government:

  • to shift regeneration spend towards community investment
  • to provide access to assets for community groups
  • to ensure community vehicles are established in all new town developments
  • to introduce fair contracts
  • to make the business support system relevant for community enterprise
  • to introduce a Community Allowance
  • to create fairness in finance through community reinvestment regulation
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