Have you ever felt like you are the one at the party who was invited to stir it up a bit in the event of it getting boring?
Well, that's how it felt when I was asked to give evidence to the CLG Select Committee Inquiry into Localism
last week. The committee has been questioning witnesses for a couple of months now and on the whole it has been like a procession of the localism crusaders, primarily local council or voluntary sector reps making a case in favour of having more power - hardly turkeys voting for Christmas.
So, as my session approached I sensed that I and my fellow 'industry' witnesses were in fact being primed to present a less positive position on the localism agenda to spice up the party.
Now don't get me wrong. BCSC broadly supports the principle of devolving power to a local level. Intuitively, it makes sense to allow those closest to a community to shape its future development. That said, the Committee didn't call us in to hear us toe the Pickles mantra!
And so, we set about to share our view that having multiple different rules and procedures around the country, as with the different LEP models with significantly different remits and powers, is likely to add to the complexity and cost of development. When asked about the re-localisation of business rates (a bit of a political hot potato at present) we applied a similar argument - multiple business rate regimes controlled by local councils could add uncertainly to retailers investment decisions.
Our industry is in the business of regenerating communities, providing employment and training opportunities and ultimately driving local economic growth. For this to happen effectively key decisions, on planning and business rates in particular, need to take place at the right spatial level, and (as much as this may pain some of the localism apologists) that level is not always local. Speaking to the MPs last week, we all sought to stress the fact that politicians must not pursue devolution for devolution's sake, but should rather take a more sophisticated approach to localism that recognises not all services could or should be delivered locally.
Fingers crossed they were in listening mode.