Charlotte Street Partners



Wise council

Written by Charlie Clegg, senior associate
Edited by Kevin Pringle, senior partner
15 March 2022

Good morning,

Thank goodness – surely – that Scotland doesn’t have parish councils. These bodies, England’s lowest rung of local government are, at least in the popular imagination, squabbling, ineffective and, well, parochial. Those flaws may be tragic – as in JK Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy – or comic: as when Jackie Weaver’s coup at Handforth Parish Council gripped the nation. One person who does, however, take parish councils seriously is Michael Gove. The UK government’s secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities promised community empowerment at all levels in a white paper on levelling up published last month. In the Financial Times this week, Peter Foster and Sebastian Payne have been looking at what that may mean for parish councils. Their report finds that, although the empowerment of parish councils may struggle to mitigate the effects of austerity on local government, the bodies are often best-placed to inform local decision-making. Yes, parish councils are flawed. For a start, they don’t cover England’s major cities at all and their make-up is older, whiter and wealthier than the population as a whole. If, though, localism is to mean more than the creation of regional mayoralties, powerful parishes are a positive step. And that’s something Scotland could learn from. Smaller burgh councils were swept away in the 1970s and the community councils that emerged are little more than liaison committees. Now only Scotland’s four most populous settlements have councils of their own. Myriad reports have called for Scotland to do better in local government, which is now among the least local in Europe. But these calls have always met devolved indifference. The current Scottish government’s alleged instinct to keep things central is largely to blame. Opposition parties should, though, be called out for a lack of ambition. A peculiarly Scottish consensus has set in, cosy and bleak: yes, the status quo’s rubbish, but it’s our rubbish. Take Lanark or Stranraer. These places need levelling up and they need a voice; but, under the current system, they don’t even have their own council wards. Proper representation for such places wouldn’t fix all their problems but at least Stranraer’s problems and solutions could be identified in Stranraer rather than in Edinburgh. That Scotland lacks the glamour of Jackie Weaver is no lucky escape. Scotland’s communities need better and that starts with giving them a voice.


Following meetings in Rome, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan has expressed concerns that China may have already decided to provide to provide military support to Russia. Chinese economic support may prove vital to the Russian government, which is unable to access most of its reserves apart from those held in yuan. The UK government’s levelling up, housing and communities secretary Michael Gove has told the House of Commons there will be no limit on the number of Ukrainian refugees the UK will take. The UK government later confirmed 43,000 Britons had offered to support the settlement of Ukrainian refugees. Ahead of a statement on Covid restrictions by the first minister today, the Scottish cabinet is meeting to decide the next steps on Covid restrictions. The Scottish government has planned to lift all remaining restrictions on 21 March; however, rapidly rising case numbers have thrown this into doubt.

Business and economy

Thirty-three civil society groups including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Save the Children, and Age UK have written to the prime minister, the chancellor of the exchequer, and the business secretary. Their letter calls for £3.6bn for insulation grants to all households, and an extra £4bn by 2025 to install heat pumps in place of gas boilers. Leading UK law firm DLA Piper, which has around 200 staff in Moscow and St Petersburg, has announced it is leaving the Russian market. The move comes as many law firms are divided over how to approach their Russian operations. (£) Measures to tackle rising Covid cases in China are causing fears for global supply chains, with shares in Chinese companies already taking a hit. Authorities have already imposed a one-week lockdown on Shenzhen: a city dubbed ‘the Silicon Valley of China’. (£)

Columns of note

Over 300 western brands have left Russia. What will remain for those Russians whose post-communist ascent to affluence was marked by McDonald’s and Ikea? In the Financial Times, Polina Ivanova looks at how some losses are being filled by domestic challengers while others are more difficult to replicate. (£) As a Channel 4 documentary exposes how The Jeremy Kyle Show was made, Pravina Rudra argues its bile has never quite gone away. Instead, she suggests, the show’s eagerness to shame and its Manichean worldview have transferred onto Twitter. (£)


What happened yesterday?

US stocks were hit ahead of this week’s Federal Reserve meeting. The US central bank is expected to agree interest rate rises. On Wall Street, the S&P 500 dropped 0.7% while the Nasdaq Composite fell two per cent. European markets were, however, buoyed by the prospect of peace talks in Ukraine. The regional Stoxx 600 index closed up 1.2%. The pound was trading at 1.19 euros and at 1.30 dollars.

What’s happening today?

Final results
Genel Energy Genuit Grp PlcTI Fluid Systems         Petrofac         Aptitude         Smart Metering         Old Mutual Lim.         Tissue Regenix GroupGresham House          Interim resultsClose Bros      Dfs Furn         Litigation Cap.Virgin Wines  Ferguson        

International economic announcements(10:00) ZEW Survey (GER) – Economic Sentiment(10:00) ZEW Survey (GER) – Current Situation(10:00) ZEW Survey (EU) – Economic Sentiment(07:00) Wholesale Price Index (GER)(12:30) Producer Price Index (US)(10:00) Industrial Production (EU)(12:30) Empires State Manufactacturing (US) UK economic announcements(07:00) Producer Price Index(07:00) Consumer Price Index

Source: Financial Times

did you know

England’s largest parish council is Northampton, with a population of 130,000.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questionsTreasury (including topical questions) General debateUkraine Oral questionsVarious

House of Lords 

LegislationElections Bill – committee stage (day 2)Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Bill – third reading Oral questionsVarious 

Scottish parliament 

Topical questions First Minister’s StatementCOVID-19 Update Ministerial StatementDeveloping a Catching Policy to Deliver Sustainable Fisheries Management in Scotland Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee DebateEnding Conversion Practices Scottish Government DebateCOVID-19 – Scotland’s Strategic Framework Update

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