Each week the New Social Covenant Unit recognises Members of Parliament for their covenantal credentials as spotted on the green benches.
Despite the House of Commons being in recess for much of this week, MPs still grabbed opportunities to tell Ministers what really matters.
Give local people a say, says Matt Vickers MP
The Secretary of State himself gave witness to the Levelling Up Select Committee this week in another display of unwavering commitment to the new social covenant. Responding to a question from the MP for Stockton South, Matt Vickers, about the role of ‘street votes’ in any future Planning Bill, Mr Gove replied:
‘I love the idea’.
First recommended by the late Sir Roger Scruton in his pioneering report ‘Living with Beauty’, ‘street votes’ is a hyper local extension of the neighbourhood plan, allowing residents of a single street to agree and set a design code, taking back control of development.
The Unit supports ‘street votes’ for they embed principles of community power in housing and planning. We can achieve both conservation and innovation by following our proud history of trusting the people, their affections and intuitions, to know what’s best. This stands against a contractual approach whereby officials bargain with local people to get away with more ‘identikit’ or ‘anywhere-ville’ units for less, failing to honour the preferences of local people to live in homes that facilitate their commitments to family and community.
Novara media praise the Unit for ‘radical’ ideas
A critique from Novara Media describes our campaign for community power as a ‘cynical power grab’, rehearsing tired lines about the ‘Big Society’ handing liabilities, not assets, to communities.
We address this head on in our report ‘Trusting The People’:
‘We need to move from a passive, optional ‘rights’ approach (rights to provide, rights to buy, rights to transfer, rights to challenge, rights to neighbourhood plans, etc.) to a ‘do’ approach, where community power is the standard model.
‘A Conservative Government must invest in changing that culture, creating institutions which can teach and encourage people to play the role they want to.
‘…trusting the people is not a big bang, but will be a long term project which will require Whitehall to change the way it works and listen to local places…’
Novara Media do, however, concede that our report contains powerful ideas:
‘Driven by the pursuit of new sources of capital accumulation, lurking in the background is the intuition that asset ownership must be remodelled…
‘Yet, in places — intentionally or not — the report hints at something more radical. It argues, for instance, that we “need to remodel our economic institutions to put the values of ordinary people, rather than the abstract forces of finance, at the centre of decision making”’.
The author’s most important point is this:
‘The left must avoid the temptation to cede this ground to conservative forces and fall back on centralised nationalisation as the only marker of leftwing policy. To do so would be to abandon one of the most strategically important grounds for rebuilding a powerful left.’
Competitive ideas are politically irresistible and the battle between left and right over community power between in Westminster bodes very well indeed.
Thanks for reading!