One of the best Xmas #2s of all time! ‘I believe in Father Xmas’ – 10 years ahead of BandAid
This is the first Xmas since 2011 that I have not written a piece for what became quite a popular Placemaking Resources blog, posted roughly fortnightly from 2011-2015. The blog became a monthly column in Planning in March 2015, behind the journal’s paywall – a sign of the times?
Looking back on my four Xmas musings, 2011-14, takes us on something of a musical story of the coalition and local growth. In the dark days of 2011, the focus remained on Pickles’ destruction of regions and any vestiges of New Labour. Surveying the wasteland of austerity-driven public policy and ‘big society’ (i.e. cheap) localism, the economic professional could legitimately reflect on BandAid’s ‘Do they know it’s Christmas?’, such was the absence of seasonal cheer.
By 2012, in the aftermath of the Heseltine ‘No stone unturned’ review, and the promises of city and growth deals, one could envisage the ’12 days of Xmas…’ unlocking a range of gifts that might drive local growth and development over the ensuing 12 months.
2013 was, in retrospect, both prescient and insightful. Prescient – because the use of ‘My favorite things’ anticipated this season’s Aldi advert!; insightful, because, even then, it was clear that Government’s tendency towards ‘making it up as you go along’ policy (now sometimes referred to as ‘policy by sound-bite’) would be an enduring signature of Osborne’s tenure at Number 11.
2014 rounded off the series – suggesting it had taken the coalition most of its term to, essentially, get back to where local growth had been in 2009. It also counselled local leadership teams’ to plan for the long haul (i.e. beyond the ‘Osborne decade’), to make genuine, substantive and sustainable progress in devolution and local growth.
For 2015, there is actually quite a lot to cheer – ‘Powerhouses’ and ‘Engines’, jostle with devolution agreements that may provide the platform for the long run progress envisaged at Xmas 2014.
However, I have to say, my most powerful and enduring Xmas anthems, remain those with a twist of disappointment or cynicism in the superficial jollity of the season.