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Localis’s offices at Clutha House, 10 Storey's Gate where a number of other right-wing think-tanks are based.

Localis, officially Localis Research Ltd, is a right-wing think-tank focused on local government. Along with Policy Exchange – with which it is closely associated – it has been central to the development of Tory thinking on local government and a legitimising political rhetoric stressing local accountability juxtaposed with bureaucratic and dictatorial central government.

Origins and history

Localis was set up in late 2001 by three senior Conservatives counsellors; Lord Hanningfield, Colin Barrow and Paul Bettison. It was incorporated as a company limited by guarantee (i.e. without shareholders) on 14 September 2001 and was launched on or around 3 October 2001. [1] All three founders were powerful figures in local government. Lord Hanningfield, who was later charged under the Theft Act for his Parliamentary Expenses claims, [2] was the Leader of Essex County Council and vice-chairman of the Local Government Association. He was appointed Chairman. Colin Barrow, a millionaire businessman, was then a senior member of Suffolk County Council and chairman of the Local Government Improvement and Development Agency (IDEA). Paul Bettison was a member of the executive of the Local Government Association and leader of Bracknell Forest Borough Council.

Links with Policy Exchange

8 Barton Street, Localis’s original registered address then owned by Localis co-founder Colin Barrow. Michael Portillo’s 2001 Leadership campaign was also based at the Westminster property.

Localis co-founder Colin Barrow was one of the key backers of Michael Portillo’s campaign in the 2001 Conservative leadership contest. [3] Barrow donated use of his Georgian house at 8 Barton Street as Portillo’s campaign HQ. [4] The £10 million property, [5] located only a few minutes walk from the Houses of Parliament, was Localis’s official address until July 2003.

At the same time that Localis was set up, another group of Portillo’s backers set up Policy Exchange and its sister organisation Conservatives for Change. Localis developed a close relationship with Policy Exchange. In 2003 it relocated to 10 Storey's Gate where Policy Exchange and Conservatives for Change were based. Policy Exchange and Localis then began to collaborate on research. Policy Exchange’s accounts, filed with the Charity Commission, report payments from Localis to cover joint research projects starting in 2003. The following amounts were received by Policy Exchange between 2003 and 2007: 2003 - £10,297; 2004 - £15,035; 2005 - £30,000; 2006 - £14,250 and 2007 - £20,000. [6] As the table below shows, from February 2003 the serving directors of Policy Exchange have also served on the board of Localis; first Nicholas Boles, then his successor Anthony Browne, and finally Neil O’Brien.


Name of Board Member Stated occupation Date of Appointment Date of resignation
Colin Barrow Company Director 14/09/2001 01/04/2007
Paul Bettison Company Director 14/09/2001 N/A
Lord Hanningfield Farmer 14/09/2001 N/A
David Skinner Executive Director 02/09/2002 15/12/2002
Nicholas Boles Investment Consultant 26/02/2003 N/A
Anthony Browne Director of Think-Tank 01/11/2007 06/10/2008
Paul Carter Property Developer 12/02/2008 N/A
Merrick Cockell Politician 14/02/2008 N/A
Neil O’Brien Company Director 07/10/2008 N/A
James Morris CEO of think-tank 07/10/2008 N/A

Until May 2010 Localis was run by its CEO James Morris, overseen by a board of directors chaired by Merrick Cockell, the leader of Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council. Morris stepped down as CEO and as a director in May 2010 after winning a Conservative seat in the general elections that same month.[7] In July 2010 a new Chief Executive was announced: Alex Thomson, formerly the Conservative Party's specialist policy adviser for decentralisation and local government, who was 'leading on the development of the Party's policies on local government, housing and planning.' He was due to take up the role from 16 August 2010. [8]

The board includes founder directors Lord Hanningfield and Paul Bettison, the director of Policy Exchange Neil O'Brien and the London Property Developer and Kent County Councillor Paul Carter. [9] The table on the right shows the current and former directors of Localis Research Ltd as registered with Companies House as at 19 February 2010, including their date of appointments and resignation (if applicable) and their stated profession.

Anthony Browne, who left to join Boris Johnson's London Mayoral administration, records in the Mayor of London Gifts and hospitality register that the Localis Board Dinner was held at the House of Lords on 7 October 2008. [10]

As of 26 March 2010 Localis listed three staff; its CEO James Morris; Tom Shakespeare, Director of Policy and Research; Mike Morgan-Giles, Head of Communications & Membership. It also listed an intern Susana Forjan.[11] As of 6 July 2010 it listed only two staff, Tom Shakespeare and researcher Barry McGinn. Tom Shakespeare, Mike Morgan-Giles and Barry McGinn all previously worked at Policy Exchange. [12] Mike Morgan-Giles left Localis in May to join former boss Morris as his parliamentary assistant.[13]


Party Conference Fringe Events

Labour 2014

  • 22nd September
'200,000 Homes: Are garden cities the answer?'. Speakers: Roberta Blackman-Woods MP; Cllr John Burden and Duncan Bonfield.[14]

Conservative 2014

  • 29th September
'Does the South East deserve Devo Max?'. Chaired by Cllr David Burbage MBE, speakers: Rt Hon John Redwood MP, Bob Neill MP, Cllr Mike Jones and Cllr Roy Perry.
  • 30th September
'Fixing the housing crisis: are garden cities the answer?'. Speakers: Mark Pawsey MP, Cllr Paul Carter CBE and Duncan Bonfield[14]

Liberal Democrats 2014

  • 7th October
'Certified organic: Are garden cities the localist answer to the housing crisis?' Chaired by Isabel Hardman, speakers: Rt Hon Vince Cable MP, Caroline Pidgeon MBE, Cllr Keith House and Duncan Bonfield.[14]


  1. ‘NEW THINK TANK LAUNCHED TO CHAMPION LOCAL DECISION MAKING’, Local Government Chronicle, 3 October 2001.
  2. Jon Swaine, 'MPs' expenses: David Laws faces police inquiry over allowances', Daily Telegraph, 5 July 2010
  3. A full list of donors is provided by Portillo in the Register of Members' Interests Session 2001-02
  4. Andrew Pierce, ‘Bless this house: Portillo's spiritual home’, The Times, 15 June 2001
  5. John Elliott, ‘Colin Barrow’, Sunday Times, 8 April 2007; p.2
  6. This income is described in the 2007 accounts as ‘Share of research projects paid by Localis Research Ltd’. In the previous statements it is referred to as ‘Recharge of research projects to Localis Research Ltd’. Copies of Policy Exchange’s accounts are available on its Powerbase page.
  7. Local Government Chronicle Morris standing down at Localis 13 May 2010, accessed 6 July 2010
  8. Localis appoint new chief executive accessed 27 July 2010.
  9. PDF of <http://www.localis.org.uk/page/78/Board.htm> created 25 March 2010.
  10. Mayor of London Gifts and hospitality register, Gifts and hospitality register - Anthony Browne [Accessed 26 March 2010]
  11. PDF of <http://www.localis.org.uk/page/79/Team.htm> created 26 March 2010.
  12. Localis Team accessed 6 July 2010.
  13. Confirmed by phone with James Morris's Westminster office, 7 July 2010.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Conference Events Localis, accessed 6 October 2014