Written Evidence submitted by Localise
West Midlands |
1.0 LWM is a thinktank, campaign group and consultancy
promoting a localised approach to economic development and decision-making
for sustainability and justice reasons. We only heard about this
enquiry yesterday, so apologies that our submission is more poorly
referenced and less detailed than would otherwise be the case.
Localise West Midlands concludes that the following
are the most important aspects of embedding sustainable development
- Learn from and implement as much of possible
of the work that has been done by the sustainable development
commission over the last few years, in particular learning from
the Prosperity Without Growth work.
- Examine and resolve policy conflicts across the
whole of Government business with sustainability objectives in
- High level sustainability education of senior
civil servants and ministers.
- Relatedly ensure that procurement is truly efficient
in terms of long term costs and global resources.
- Ensure the Green Investment Bank is set up with
non-profit governance and a sensitivity to small projects.
- Use its influence within Europe to change competition
law permit a greater freedom for national and local government
procurement to buy social benefits even if this might entail more
- Find a way to replace the "watchdog"
role that the SDC formerly occupied.
- Address the crisis in agriculture urgently.
Was the SDC successful in fulfilling its remit?
Which aspects of its work have reached a natural end, or are otherwise
of less importance, and which remain of particular continuing
3.1 From our perspective the work of the SDC
led to a greater embedding of much genuine sustainability thinking
into the previous Government and its is hoped that some of this
survives in Whitehall. Clearly the current government see the
SDC as a "task and finish" organisation which has been
working on embedding sustainability into the Government's normal
working practice and while we would agree with this, we would
not conclude that the task is finished. In particular:
- (a) the work on Prosperity without Growth
was met by much Government reluctance, and it is this sort of
challenge that should have been given time to be explored and
conclusions drawn before the SDC was abolished;
- (b) an independent watchdog role for sustainability
is still very much needed.
- (c) It is not the duty of any other Government
department or quango to identify and make recommendations for
resolving policy conflicts within central government. Policy conflicts
are rife, particularly on procurement and the short-term efficiency
agenda but generally across all departments and subjects such
as transport, agriculture, food, health.
How can mechanisms to ensure the sustainability
of Government operations, procurement and policy-making be improved
and further embedded and mainstreamed across Government departments?
3.2 Attention to policy conflicts as above.
3.3 High level sustainability awareness training
for senior civil servants and ministers, including a rethink on
economic scale ("strategic" does not necessarily mean
"big" and small-scale enterprise, procurement etc must
match the community empowerment of the Big Society concept) and
on definitions of efficiency (ie it means long term resource efficiency,
not short term cost savings).
3.4 Find ways to measure "net" growth
rather than "gross" when identifying high-growth businesses,
for example is a high-growth business simply displacing a number
of smaller-scale enterprises (for example, Uk supermarket chains
displacing smaller chains and independents) in which case the
net benefits may be small or negative.
How can governance arrangements for sustainable
development in Government be improved, and how can sustainability
reporting by Government departments be made more transparent and
3.5 Identify an organisation to undertake the
independent watchdog role.
3.6 Extend the "Payment by results"
concept to Ministers for their action on climate change.
3.7 Attention to cross-departmental achievements.
In formulating a future architecture for sustainable
development in Government, how can it take on board wider developments
and initiatives (e.g. to develop "sustainability reporting"
in departments' accounts) and the contributions that other bodies
might make (eg Centre of Expertise in Sustainable Procurement)?
3.8 The recent review of procurement efficiency
by Sir Philip Green, while containing some useful case studies,
is alarming in its lack of reference to sustainability criteria
and its recommendations for greater centralisation. This must
be weighed against the wealth of objective study on procurement
for wider benefit that has been done over the last few years.
How, without the assistance of the SDC, will the
Government be able to demonstrate that it is "the greenest
3.9 Use its influence within Europe to change
competition law permit a greater freedom for national and local
government procurement to buy environmental and social benefits
even if this might entail more local sourcing.
3.10 Create a Green Investment Bank that is fully
able to deal with local-scale initiatives as well as large, and
is governed on non-profit principles. The Wrigley report and the
more recent report on the GIB by the Aldersgate Group does not
sufficiently address the need for smaller-scale initiatives.
3.11 Address the crisis in agriculture and the
food supply chain, in which farming is becoming less diverse and
more intensive with farmers leaving the industry in increasing
numbers, with implications for rural livelihoods, sustainability
etc. Food is the single most urgent area to demonstrate sustainability
commitments and one that should chime well with coalition priorities.
13 October 2010