Lewis/Quartermain – What Lesson Not to Learn from Greater Manchester’s Informal Strategic Planning


Steve Quartermain, chief planner at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), read a speech from Brandon Lewis at the Town and Country Planning Association’s annual conference in London yesterday after the minister was unable to attend.

It said: “Councils need to ensure they work together where issues cut across local boundaries. Localism is not an excuse for isolation or parochialism.”

Lewis’ speech said that cooperation between councils was “strengthening”, citing the example of Greater Manchester Combined Authority where a city-region spatial plan is being prepared across 10 council areas and an elected metro mayor will take on strategic planning and housing powers.

The speech said: “There’s no doubt that councils across the country will be able to learn the lessons of their cooperation.

“It’s hoped that others will similarly want to take advantage of greater devolutionary powers.”

However the lesson not learned is that informal arrangements, where any Borough/distyrcit has power of veto over the plan never works.  There is a name for this Liberum Veto.

The liberum veto (Latin for “the free veto”) was a parliamentary device in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. It was a form of unanimity voting rule that allowed any member of the Sejm (legislature) to force an immediate end to the current session and nullify any legislation that had already been passed at the session by shouting Nie pozwalam! (Polish: “I do not allow!”).

It led to massive corruption as foreign powers no longer had to bribe half the assembly but one member only.  Harvard political scientist Grzegorz Ekiert, assessing the history of the liberum veto in the Kingdom of Poland, 1569-1795, concludes:

The principle of the liberum veto preserved the feudal features of Poland’s political system, weakened the role of the monarchy, led to anarchy in political life, and contributed to the economic and political decline of the Polish state. Such a situation made the country vulnerable to foreign invasions and ultimately led to its collapse.

Any political principle which allows any locality to veto housing has the same effect it so weakens the nation that it undermines national competitiveness, worsens inequality and leads to national decline. The kind of decline we have have in England for 50 years. The coalition planning reforms were based on institutionalising a liberum veto that having a half assed and unimplementable measure the ‘duty ti cooperate’ grafted on under pressure after the event.

Liberum veto strategic planning has never worked anywhere ever.



One thought on “Lewis/Quartermain – What Lesson Not to Learn from Greater Manchester’s Informal Strategic Planning

  1. liberum veto is confusing freedom with chaos and enables the powerful to rule. Wisdom and its bind back to Ethics which are he component parts of the natural experience of Grace is highest form of freedom, and enables the decentralization people seek. Now just apply that policy concept to the economic system.

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