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The Disraeli Room is a hub for new ideas, commentary and analysis. ResPublica's blog is named after the great reforming Prime Minister of the nineteenth century, Benjamin Disraeli, and welcomes contributions from across the political, academic and professional spectrum.
There is no questioning that the most pressing issue in domestic politics today is housing. With millions of individuals and families waiting for social housing and many first time buyers priced out the market, it is clear that current housing policy is failing.
Last month Russell Brand espoused his disdain for our ‘broken political system’. He asserted that, by voting, we endorse the inadequacy of our leaders and reinforce the imbalance of our flawed system of democracy.
In previous decades the UK’s education system has been targeted for numerous reforms, but in many ways its potential has barely been tapped. The biggest failure of today’s vision of educational reform is its inability to see schools as the generators of social, political and economic capital that they could be.
Why has a local food movement that started in a rather run-down Yorkshire mill town turned into a phenomenon that’s catching people’s imagination around the world? Incredible Edible Todmorden has been going six years since its co-founder, Pam Warhurst, came back from a conference inspired to take action in her community; since community worker Mary Clear dug up her rose garden and planted vegetables with a big sign saying ‘help yourself’; and since ‘propaganda planter’ Nick Green turned the derelict medical centre where mass murderer Harold Shipman used to practice into a free feast for passers-by.
At the same time as facing increased demand for services, councils up and down the country are grappling with significant reductions to their budgets. This cannot go on indefinitely – something has to give.
The Church is a longstanding driver of social innovation. Just a brief glance through history reveals myriad examples of churches engaged in the service of their communities. From monasteries pioneering educational and health care services to modern-day food banks, the Christian community has embarked upon local social innovation at countless levels.
The need for a new approach It often seems that our current political class is unable to break out of the paucity of partisan debate, whereby solutions must be either market-based or state-based.
With the celebration of Inter Faith Week and Mitzvah Day this week, faith communities will again have the opportunity to show us that they are the architects and builders of civil society.
This year, the concept of community or locally owned energy has, to some extent, gone mainstream. Large scale projects such as Neilston, Westmill and Lochcarnan have hit local headlines, and politicians have hit the headlines nationally, expressing effusive support.
Parish and town councils are the closest level of governance to the local community, but have historically had less power over local issues than larger councils. There was a big shift to this last month, when Local Works achieved their latest campaign aim to extend the powers of the Sustainable Communities Act to these small local councils.
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