(Online Course) Pub Ad for IAS Mains: Rural Development: New Localism (Paper -2)

(Online Course) Public Administration for IAS Mains Exams

Topic: Rural Development: New Localism

New localism emerged from an increasing understanding of the limitations of centrally-driven policy implementation. It involved an acceptance that local problems could not be solved by standardized approaches imposed from above, and that local agencies needed space to adapt and innovate within the policy framework.

An effective new localism when combined with a realised practice of public engagement and participation lays the foundations for a new form of networked community governance. This form of governance goes beyond traditional public administration and new public management-inspired forms of local governance to provide a focus for both integrated service and programme delivery and the capacity to engage and involve a large number of stakeholders in influencing policy.

New Localism and Old Localism

New localism is therefore characterised by a cautious devolution of power to the local level in an attempt to better implement national goals.

It emphasizes the devolution of managerial over political power - the aim is generally to allow local managers to meet national priorities more effectively, rather than to allow local politicians to deviate from national goals.
New localism differs from the implicit ‘old localism’ in, two important senses. First, it accepts the role of central government in driving change at the local level, something that the loyalists of the 1980s strongly resisted. Second, it does not centre on the role of the local authority but takes a wider view of the locality that includes communities and other public service organisations such as health and police service.

An Emerging Governance Principle

New Localism can be characterised as a strategy aimed at devolving power and resources away from central control and towards front-line managers, local democratic structures and local consumers and communities, within an agreed framework of national minimum standards and policy priorities. In short it represent a practical response to a significant practical challenge: how to manage a substantial variety of state service provision and interventions in a world that defies the application of simple rule-driven solutions and where the recipient of the service has to be actively engaged the intervention is going to work. Building a road or providing electricity is a task that requires of level of state capacity in building a better environment for citizens. Creating the conditions for a damaged child or community to achieve their potential requires a rather different and more subtle capacity.

The case for New Localism rests on three grounds. First it is a realistic response to the complexity of modern governance. Second it meets the need for a more engaging form of democracy appropriate to the 21st century. Third New Localism enables the dimensions of trust, empathy and social capital to be fostered and as such encourages civil renewal. The case New Localism against rests around concerns about local decision-making either failing in some way or leading to more inequitable outcomes.


There are very few problems confronting communities today that have simple solutions. Protecting the environment, creating a sound economy, sustaining healthy communities or helping to prevent crime all require a complex set of actions from people and agencies at different spatial levels and from different sectors. It would be nice to argue that we should stop doing complexity and instead think about simplicity. That might wash in a self improvement book but when it comes to running the business of a modern society, the attraction of simplicity is false. As the saying goes ‘to every complex problem there is a simple answer and it is always wrong’.
We need to find ways of living with complexity. We need to understand any problem or issue in its multiple dimensions and find mechanisms that enable us to not get swamped by complexity but to deal with it effectively. That is where the message of New Localism has got something to offer. The path to reform is not to allow local institutions complete autonomy or equally to imagine that the centre can steer the whole of the government system. We need a form of central-local relations that allows scope for all institutions to play an active role and we need to find ways of involving a wider range of people in the oversight of the services that are provided through public funds and in the search for solutions to complex problems.

Complexity comes in a range of forms: structural, technical or over the allocation of responsibilities one of the key challenges to democracy today lies precisely in the sheer complexity of modern government and governance. Complexity is inevitable because of the range of activities that governments and public services are now engaged in. There are as a result a lot of organisations involved in delivery. Governing operates a range of levels and through a range of organisations.

New Localism is attractive because it is only through giving scope for local capacity building and the development of local solutions, in the context of a national framework, which we can hope to met the challenge posed by these complexities. The solution to complexity is networked community governance because it is only through such an approach that local knowledge and action can be connected to a wider network of support and learning. In that way we can get solutions designed for diverse and complex circumstances.

The complexity of what the modern state is trying to achieve, the need for a more engaging form of politics and a recognition of the importance of issues of empathy and feelings of involvement to enable social and political mobilisation make the case for a New Localism because it is at the local level that some of these challenges can best be met. The point is not that all social and political action and decision should be local but rather that more of it should be.

The vision of New Localism needs to be carefully specified in a way that recognizes diversity in communities and a concern with equity issues. The argument is not for a romantic return to community decision making or a rampant ‘beggar by neighbour’ localism. It is about a key and growing role for local involvement in decision making about the public services and the public realm as part of a wider system of multi-level governance.

To make sure that sustainable development takes place within the urban local government, the following measures have to be implemented.

(1) Facilitating necessary municipal reforms to allow municipal bodes to raise requisite funds.
(2) Preparing guidelines for the states for facilitating cities in leying taxes, user changes, borrowing of funds and incurring expenditure.
(3) Allocation of funds by the centre to the state government should be conditioned upon the performance of the state in implementing the provisions of the 7th Amendment.
(4) State level finance commission should be granted more powers to recommend for developmental finances to Local Self Government.
(5) State level finance commission should be granted more powers to recommend for developmental finances to Local Self Government.
(6) Perspective plan for a period of 25 years should be prepared by the state government and should be implemented through Urban Local bodies.
(7) In order to ensure transparency in administration, people participation should be encouraged at local level in policy formulation.
(8) Control of elected representatives over employees of local bodies by clearly defining the roles and powers of local bodies. It should also ensure flow of funds easier and quicker to local bodies.
(9) Creation of interactive platform for sharing municipal innovation, experience among municipal administration.
(10) Creating awareness for all segments of communities bodes to raise requisite funds.
(11) Computerization of various departments of local bodes and usage of geographical information system for better decision making.
(12) Assessment of training needs of people involved in Urban Administration.
(13) Improving efficiency of local bodes through enhanced technical, administrative and financial capabilities. Development of appropriate municipal information system for the people to conduct the process of governance at the local level.
(14) To ensure transparency in administration, simplifying laws, rules and procedures to make them easily understandable to an average person.
(15) Promoting Pubic-Private Partnership at local level as single agency or government is not in a position to effectively address the issues of poverty.
(16) Laws, rules and regulations should be specifically formulated for local bodes for effective implementation of local projects.

The problems and challenges faced by mankind are global in nature but they have to be dealt with at local level. To fight the problems of environmental degradation, poverty, unemployment, it was suggested that the stakeholders should be involved at the grassroot level and governance should be given due importance involvement of community in decision making powers can only provide effective solution to the problems of urban areas. Politics should be delinked from administration in urban areas by the adoption of the concept of New Localism. Techniques of New Public Management should be applied at the local level to increase the efficiency and also to ensure the accountability of administration to the stake holders. Governance should include apart from traditional institutions under Local Self Government, NGO’s, civil society, User Groups, pressure groups and the people themselves. Participatory management of the local level can only provide effective solution to the challenges of administration of urban bodies at the local level.

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