We all have our vices, some more dangerous than others. Some have a penchant for wine, some pore over old maps while others get a kick out of trawling through parish council meeting minutes from the 1960s. For my sins, I have been cursed with an unending interest in all things science fiction, so when I was sent a set of predictions from the incredible Isaac Asimov from 50 years ago my interest was more than caught.
These predictions - some big, some small - set out some of the things he thought the world would be like by the year 2014. Time has inexorably ticked on and whilst not all have come off there are enough that have to say he was pretty visionary.
This got me wondering – what might the world of local government look like in 50 years time? As anyone who's been around for more than half of the last decade will know, accurately predicting even 5 years is next to impossible, but when you go that far ahead it might actually be a little easier. With that in mind I thought I'd dip my toe into the mystic waters and see if any of my own predictions come true.
- Planning decisions won’t be made by people, they will be made through a massively crowdsourced system incorporating hard and fast rules as well as direct input from local residents. This will take any ambiguity and personal opinions of planners out of the equation.
- The only new buildings being approved will have the majority of their usable space below ground. As demand on land increases exponentially and pressure grows not to destroy skylines and sunlight onto the ground, the only direction will be down.
- Local government will have massively more power to determine its own fate. More local taxes will be in place, with minimal handouts from central government to balance out low income areas. This will in turn lead to far greater discrepancies between areas in terms of services and quality standards.
- The two-tier council structure as it was will have disappeared, though certain services will still be shared but not on traditional boundary lines.
- Virtual reality will be a normal and everyday part of life, so all customer contacts will be done with a working virtual contact centre. Brent are just a few years ahead of their time.
- Local authorities will face a huge challenge around supporting employment as more and more jobs are undertaken by robots/computer programmes, so will put increasing importance on funding education locally and upskilling their local workforce.
- Social care as we know it will long since have failed. Most older people who are not privately supported will still be working in some way, even if only virtually. Their knowledge of legacy systems will be a key determinant in the levels of care and support they receive. Alternative care solutions run by the public will be supported but only minimally, while private care will be huge (and profitable for those providing it).
- One of the biggest challenges facing local committee will be dealing with litter dropped by inconsiderate jet pack users.
- People will still want hanging baskets.
And a few from Gareth as a bonus...
- Local authorities will be private enterprises… People will choose which they want to join and local areas will define their own joining fees. This will lead to a far more decentralised form of government but also many areas that are extremely wealthy and others that are fairly undesirable (I’ve definitely watched too many dystopian type films).
- Maintaining community assets such as parks and community spaces will be the number one role of a local authority. This will extend to other key community assets such as power stations, railway lines and possibly farms as local people recognise the importance of those assets
- Local authorities will have relatively few staff; being primarily custodians for the local area rather than service providers. All public services will be provided privately.
- It’ll be impossible to close a paddling pool or a bowling green
What do you think; are any of these far off the mark, or have we missed something glaringly obvious? Answers on Twitter @welovelocalgov or leave them in the comments box below.