Pop-up Parishes for London
by Ben Rogers
In selecting these, we have identified policies that are:
Significant ideas that would make a substantial contribution to tackling London’s challenges;
Practical – could be introduced over the next four years, before the next election;
Cost-neutral – could be introduced without significant increased spending;
Innovative – new ideas that have yet to be widely proposed;
Broadly devolutionary – in keeping with our belief that Parliament should continue to devolve more responsibility to the GLA and downwards to local government.
Polls and other surveys show that people attach great importance to the quality of their local neighbourhoods and that they are often relatively dissatisfied with what they offer and the way they work. People want safe parks and streets, local community services and amenities, and stronger ties between neighbours, yet local government can feel too remote and not joined-up enough to deliver these.
We argue that the London councils and the mayor should work with central government to encourage the creation of Community Improvement Districts or ‘Pop-up Parishes’ – temporary super-local enterprises with a remit to tackle specific local problems or make concrete improvements. Pop-up parishes – which have also been championed by Tony Travers and practised informally by the London Community Foundation - would have the power to raise a modest local levy, but only where the majority of the local community had voted in favour of the levy, and agreed on how it should be used. Pop-up Parishes would have a limited lifespan – say four years – though if a parish proved popular and the local community wanted it to continue, they could vote for its renewal.
The last government introduced legislation that allowed for the creation of formal Parish Councils in London. But Londoners have shown little interest in creating a new permanent level of local government, perhaps because London already has two levels of local government (boroughs and the GLA). Creating a third permanent layer feels like a bureaucratic step too far. The attraction of Pop-up Parishes is they would be both temporary and super-local.
Pop-up Parishes, which are partly modeled on London’s successful Business Improvement Districts (see our Proposal #1), offer a light-touch, flexible, responsive way of empowering London’s local communities and revitalising local neighbourhood life.