Rory calls for more radical decentralisation
Rory called on Government to go further, challenge large-scale organisational structures and take more risks in devolving powers to communities, in a Westminster Hall debate on Sustainable Communities.
He used the debate to suggest that British government has much to do in order to catch up with other more progressive European countries, where devolved democratic structures function better. He asserted that Government “has not gone far enough or been ambitious enough” in its decentralisation policy, itself a major pillar of the coalition’s agenda. He called on Government to help communities overcome the structures of big business and charities, as well as of protocols and processes, and suggested that a less risk-averse approach be adopted.
Rory said: “We have not gone far enough or been ambitious enough. We need to be more decisive. We need to challenge the structures of big business, and sometimes even the structures of big charities, and address the fundamental structures of procurement, the fundamental structures of financing and the structures of law. Again and again we get caught up in State Aid regulations in a way that we do not need to be, with small projects of £17,000 enmeshed in red tape. We also need to take a different attitude to risk. If we are serious about working with local communities, we have to overcome some of our anxieties about accountability, predictability and transparency, and find ways of taking risk, trusting people and delegating to people.”
On the same day that the MP gave evidence to the House of Lords Communications Committee inquiry into superfast broadband, he cited as an illustrative example the community of Mallerstang and the obstacles faced by Cumbrian communities determined to install their own superfast broadband, saying: “If the Mallerstang community had not done its work, that project would have cost hundreds of thousands of pounds, but because the local organisers signed up 100% of the people in the area for the service, because they found a way of digging the fibre trenches themselves, and because they negotiated with the supplier, the total cost to the Government will be only £17,000. That is a very small amount of money to fire up a whole valley, yet somehow the Government have not yet got the money to the people. This type of action could save us hundreds of millions of pounds and bring superfast broadband into communities—but only if the Government are as aggressive and flexible as they need to be.”