The Errors of the ‘Localism Act’: Tax, Growth and Urban Expansion
by Elijah Pryor
Thu 18th Jul 2013
Despite the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government allowing plans for a freeze on council tax bills under minister Eric Pickles, there are no efforts to abolish council tax and instead introduce an alternative local taxation system. Furthermore, the rejection of an alternative local tax has been met with a call to decrease local capital and current expenditure on community services. This means that services will lose investment from local government and most often lose efficiency in meeting demands of the local population.Instead the current government has enlisted many options for local authority funding and regeneration of the economy through their introduction of the Localism Act. This act however will ultimately undermine local business, local services and the local environment.
In the first place, the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) acts to provide extra revenue for local governments, and for expenditure on local services, by placing a levy on private investors wishing to develop land around their locality. The problem, however, is that local authorities may have to use the CIL as a major way of increasing revenue, which then increases the acceptance of planning permission for corporations, without regard to their responsibility towards the local population and environment.
The current government envisages the regeneration of areas through Enterprise Zones aimed especially at developing urban areas around the UK. These Zones allow for a lapse in planning restrictions and business tax reductions for corporations that lie within the area of enterprise (the majority of Enterprise Zones lie within city boundaries rather than rural towns and villages). Furthermore, some planning laws are to be completely ignored by the Local Development Orders (LDO) which act to support large business growth. Additionally, because enterprise zones lie mostly within cities, they are effectively going to undermine all business in rural areas and eventually lead to an expansion of metropolis cities.Countryside will be decimated by the LDO’s that will potentially allow companies to expand onto sites of natural beauty. Tax reductions for business in cities will push those in the rural towns and villages to find work in large cities as smaller businesses fail to compete. The Localism Act is deceptive, it is not there to help rural areas and help develop small business but to undermine the very ability of local areas to regenerate and preserve their way of life.
The implementation of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP) replaced New Labour’s regional development agencies during the first years of the coalition government aiming to introduce greater interaction between big businesses and the creation of new jobs for local people. This, however, has not led to an increase in employment but rather it has led to a greater degree of accepted planning applications by large corporations, wishing to squeeze income out of local businesses, who have an ever-increasing involvement in government decision making. For example, around 577 supermarket planning applications were accepted in two years since 2008 to 2010. Furthermore, the LEP’s are still pandering to bureaucratic measures, which result in stagnant outcomes just as the regional development agencies did. Additionally, the size of the LEP budget does not allow for much development in the project either, as central funding of around 1.49 billion is to be dished out between 39 areas under LEP control. What is more, if the Localism Act was really intended to be a way of letting local authorities have more of a say on decision making, then central government would not be the main bearer of funds. Instead, local governments should be able to allocate money from local taxation to fund their LEP’s rather than parliament dishing out cash to their desired locations of investment.
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) deals with the control and changes to planning laws that affect the development of non-social housing and affordable housing, new supermarkets and such like. The new Act allows the development of areas on green belt land if the local community allows such a thing to happen. However, the Con-Dem government definition is so loose that it allows corporate types to decide for the residents. Whilst the NPPF does provide a greater ability for green development in certain areas, it ignores the wishes of local people and can allow green corporations to build liberally. Of course renewable energy must be a target but it must be achieved at the lowest cost of residential upset and provide a large enough return for the local residents, business and services.
A further loophole through which large companies can jump is the allowance for development on green land in ‘very special circumstances’. This is a carte blanche to trans-national companies to develop as they wish and this is just another example of a slack application of terminology in the NPPF.
Common land is to be partly sold off to developers around the UK localities in order to generate income and business growth through a Community Land Auctions (CLAs) scheme. However, more local development could be spurred on by creating communal farms that would allow for local people to save money through growing and raising their own food on common land. Furthermore, CLAs could mean the destruction of the countryside and undermining of local business, as new business seeks to compete with the current. The inconsistencies in all this legislation and regulations favour, as ever, the large businesses.