The future of England: The local dimension

Published Mon 14 Apr 2014
Looking beyond recent analysis focusing on Englishness and the politics of England, this paper investigates people's level of connection with local areas, their trust in local institutions and their appetite for more devolution of powers to the local level.

Drawing upon new analysis of the 2012 Future of England survey, this short paper explores three key questions:

  • What do people in England think about their local area and the way in which it is governed?
  • In the context of ongoing concerns about the governance of the UK, to what extent do local institutions offer a solution to the 'English question'?
  • To what extent do people in England perceive that there are limits to English localism?

Eighty per cent of survey respondents said that they felt strong attachment to their 'local area', compared with 75 per cent to England and 66 per cent to the UK. Local authorities also fared better than the UK government in terms of people's sense of local efficacy and influence. And people's trust in local councils and local councillors is consistently higher than trust in parliament and local MPs or ministers.

On the final point, concerning further devolution, the picture is more mixed, with concerns about variation in service levels (the so-called 'postcode lottery') watering down demand for localism in some crucial policy areas, such as education and social care. However, these concerns are less strong in other areas, such as housing, planning and transport, suggesting some potential for further devolution of powers.

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