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How the Localism Act Hands Power to Older Generations

Is decision-making automatically more democratic if it occurs at the local level? The assumption that this is the case has underpinned much of the political rhetoric surrounding the “Localism” agenda, which has sought to devolve political power away from top-down, centralised decision-making as much as possible in favour of transferring new powers – especially in relation to planning decisions – to the organs of local democracy such as town and parish councils.

IF was concerned that proponents of the Localism agenda had overlooked the fact that the type of people who participate in the institutions of local democracy tend to be drawn from quite a narrow section of society. In particular, they are likely to be significantly older than the general population, a fact which has a bearing on planning decisions because evidence suggests that older people are more likely to oppose planning applications than younger ones.

In this study, IF looked at the available data to pinpoint exactly what kinds of people get elected to town and parish councils, and to examine the implications that this could have for Localism policies. The study concludes by setting out a number of recommendations which aim to ensure that more young people can participate in local democracy, giving the interests of younger and future generations a better chance of being heard in the planning process.