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Houses of parliament. Article 50
Politics & Law Series: Expert Comment

COVID-19, localism and regionalism

The City Law School’s Dr John Stanton says that in this fragile period, efforts to empower local authorities, strengthen local economies and invigorate local democracy are even more vital.
by John Stevenson (Senior Communications Officer)

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has had a damaging financial impact on local communities and councils up and down the United Kingdom.

The Northern Powerhouse initiative, and regionalism more generally, have also been negatively impacted.

244925Senior Lecturer in The City Law School, Dr John Stanton, says the “COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown enforced across the United Kingdom, has had a profound effect on people, families, businesses, services and government. These effects will be felt for months and years to come. As we begin to move beyond lockdown, though, and tentatively reopen many parts of society that were forced shut, local councils will come to play an even more important role than they did before.”

Uncertain times

The Government has announced that local government will be given powers to enforce local lockdowns in the event that the number of coronavirus cases increase, with councils being able to cancel events, close public spaces and issue stay at home orders.

Dr Stanton, who actively researches in the areas of local government, democracy and devolution, says that in the current climate, “local businesses and an array of local public service providers are having to embrace reopening in uncertain times with no clear expectations as to what the future might hold.”

For Dr Stanton, the intensification of localism and regionalism efforts are all the more important right now:

The British economy is in a fragile state with a delicate path to be trod for recovery. In this context, past efforts to empower local authorities, strengthen local economies and invigorate local democracy seem ever more pertinent. The Northern Powerhouse initiative, above all else, was designed to give localities and regions in the north greater power over the services they provide; fiscal devolution was intended to strengthen local economies; whilst the introduction of metro-mayors promised more local autonomy and a break from past centralist tendencies. Post-COVID-19 Britain demands that efforts towards these objectives are bolstered if we are to help localities recover from the pandemic and the lockdown.

Dr Stanton’s first book, entitled Democratic Sustainability in a New Era of Localism was published by Routledge in 2014 and he has contributed to a range of academic journals including Legal Studies, Public Law, the Environmental Law Review and the Journal of Environment and Planning Law. His latest project, a book titled Law, Localism and the Constitution, examines central-local relations across the UK. It will be published by Routledge in 2021.

Dr Stanton also has a keen interest in Comparative Constitutional Law, with a particular emphasis on the Republic of Malta. He has worked as a Visiting Lecturer in Law at the University of Malta since 2018 and, in 2019, published a paper in the Journal of International and Comparative Law exploring the Maltese system.

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