Councils v the Community….
Today’s Yorkshire Evening Post designates this year the ‘year of people power in Leeds’. It cites the examples of the Headingley Development Trust and the Royal Park Consortium who are now scrambling to pay legal costs following the Council’s rather mean-spirited and wholly wrong legal action.
It mentions the Conservatives latest policy-wheeze which is the ‘Community Right to Buy’. Alot of this sounds good in theory. It would;
allow not-for-profit community groups to take over the running of struggling local facilities, from post offices to pubs to parks.
It would also allow groups like the Royal Park Consortium first refusal on things like the Royal Park school; something that they defiantly should have. However, the devil is in the detail because, naturally some communities, will be more able to take advantage of this than others and it seems to me that the Conservative proposals will doubtless not help those communities that wish to take over these facilities but lack the financial means.
This is the genesis of the problem with David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ which wholly fails to take into account the very real disparities that exist within that society and that in such a position the state is often the best-placed agency to ‘level the playing field’ a little. This is why practically, Cameron’s Utopianism on this leaves him sounding like a 18th Century Victorian in practice despite what he argues he means to say in theory.
Something similar exists in Scotland where the power is still vested with the owner since;
The “Right to Buy” can only be activated when the landowner has indicated that the registered land is to be sold or where the provisions of the Act have been breached.
If the ‘Right to Buy’ is to work it must take the power away from the owner of the land and actually empower the communities it is meant too. I doubt this is what Cameron’s Conservatives have in mind so the space exists for a policy which goes much further than they would.
Frthermore, the Conservatives actually hold some power in Leeds and in the case of the Royal Park School haven’t used it to aid the Royal Park Consortium. So, we see in practice what the ‘Right to Buy’ means to them in power. As for us; well we don’t even understand or practice democracy within our own party so it’s hardly surprising to see that our attitude to communities is high-handed and dismissive.