Those vying to be PM must look beyond their party and engage with a country crying out for real change

Ben Flatman

Centralised control has infantilised the nation and eroded the built environment. It’s time to put the government into special measures

For decades now governments of all political persuasions have been centralising power in Westminster. Recently this trend has accelerated, particularly in England, with a catastrophic economic and social impact. Control over more and more spending and key decisions has been concentrated in the hands of ministers and Whitehall civil servants, stifling democracy and enterprise and breeding the sense of powerlessness that helped create Brexit. Nine of the 10 poorest regions in northern Europe can now be found in the UK. Outside pockets of immense wealth, swathes of the country are visibly failing, or at best just getting by. It’s no coincidence that the UK also ranks as among the most centralised states in the developed world.

The knock-on effect on the built environment has been devastating. Public services and the public buildings, such as libraries, through which they were once delivered have been decimated. Local authorities, desperate for investment, increasingly see any private sector development as good development. Poor-quality housing and the associated retail and leisure tat that accumulates around it is now the norm. The areas that attract this kind of investment are likely to see themselves as lucky. For the less fortunate places, a more straightforward slide into poverty and hopelessness often beckons. Private architectural opulence and public squalor have become commonplace in a country that has seen homelessness and inequality spiralling out of control.

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