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November 8, 2013

The schism within this government on localism

Is this government localist or not?  In the justice sphere they veer every which way.  Theresa May brought in Police and Crime Commissioners and is proud of making the police more locally accountable, as her recent speech to Policy Exchange made clear.  When asked questions about the performance of PCCs, she said she was not there to micro manage or even manage them, it was for the electorate to judge whether they are doing a good job.  As she pointed out  “localism is always messy and uneven, and reform is always difficult and uncertain”.  Whether or not you are in favour of PCCs, there is no denying they are trying to improve the connection between local communities and the police.  But elsewhere in the justice system, reform is anti-localist.  The Ministry of Justice is getting rid of local Probation Trusts, and outsourcing a lot of probation’s work to companies who will take on large contracts.  Chris Grayling is said to be considering closing more courts and turning the already centralised court service into an organisation like the BBC, ie less accountable than HMCTS is now.  Meanwhile, PCCs are begging to have more powers delegated to them.  From the outside, it doesn’t seem like a joined-up approach.