Tuesday, 25 January 2011

How can local government make it big in society?

The stated aim of the Government's new localism legislation is intended to shift power from central government to individuals and communities but how is this to be done? Local authorities will have to engage much more closely with residents if "Big Society" is ever to become a reality. Newsletters through doors aren't going to be enough (and they may be the first things to be cut in this time of austerity). It's going to take commitment, imagination and robust feedback mechanisms to give people a real stake and make them respond. So, at a time when resources are being cut, how is this kind of engagement to be achieved? There aren't any magic solutions but a recent policy and practice note for local government offers some useful pointers from Relu research.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

1970s revisited?

Some of us are old enough to remember the 1970s and although Led Zeppelin, platform soles, and flared trousers may feature more vividly in those memories, there is also Dutch Elm Disease and the sad loss of these once ubiquitous trees. At the time it seemed as though the authorities could not quite believe the potential consequences of the infection but, as it became an epidemic, more and more elegant, and often ancient, giants sickened and died. Many people felt it as a very personal loss as they had to come to terms with the scars on much-loved landscapes. The idea that we could be revisited by tree diseases on a similar scale is alarming. But in the present era of austerity are we prepared to expend the necessary resources to protect our landscapes and heritage gardens from new threats? It is certainly a question that merits debate, as Relu's Policy and Practice Note No 25 shows all too clearly.