Localism: it's all Balls to Labour

by Stephen Tall on June 10, 2008

It’s hard to believe, but Ed Balls was once credited with being a champion of ‘new localism’ within this Labour Government. This was what Mr Balls said back in 2002, before he was elected an MP, and was Gordon Brown’s right-hand at the Treasury:

In today’s complex world, it is simply not possible to run economic policy or deliver strong public services using the old, top-down, one-size fits all solutions. Excessive centralisation saps morale at local level. It destroys innovation and experimentation. It fails to allow different policy areas that must in fact be interconnected to be joined up”.

How true. And yet compare that statement with today’s announcement by the very same Ed Balls, now an MP and cabinet minister for children, schools and the family:

Ed Balls today set out the next phase of the Government’s School Improvement Strategy – National Challenge – to transform schools, raise results in English and maths, and tackle underachievement by young people. The Children’s Plan sets out that by 2020 at least 90 per cent of children will achieve the equivalent of five higher level GCSEs by age 19. … The Government will legislate to take new powers to direct local authorities to issue a warning notice where there is clear cause for concern – such as exam results getting worse; to appoint Interim Executive Boards where the school is under a warning notice; and to require a local authority to take on advisory services where there are large numbers of schools with unacceptably low standards.

Today’s announcement by the Government will fail, just as the hundreds which preceded them have done: not because the intentions are not good – who could be against schools aiming to do better? – but because Labour just does not understand that increasing centralisation will not deliver reform. It’s a truth that Labour is incapable of acknowledging, and why they are incapable of improving the quality of education in this country.