Saturday, 10 December 2011


Should decision be made by the many or the few? its a big question and one that I wont really attempt to answer. But while everyone is blogging about the prime minister occupying an isolated protectionist position on Europe desperate to try and make sure that bankers in the city can keep on banking, I read a facebook post about directly elected mayors and it got me thinking about local government in general.

We have city councils and they have cabinets now like central government where decisions that would at one time be debated in full council, and minutes then be made available to the public are now decided by a cabinet. I appreciate that our leaders have a mandate to lead and can see the value in terms of having fewer people who can be held to account on a variety of matters. However in the case of an elected mayor too much power would be held by just on person, this reduces the effectiveness of bringing up an issue with your local councillor who would be powerless to take it much further. I feel the change to mayors in cities is not progressive, we need to engage more people in local government, elected mayors I feel, will not achieve this. my final point is simpler: The Tories want it = It's probably bad.

1 comment:

David Lindsay said...

Directly elected mayors have no place in a parliamentary rather than a presidential res publica, and are wholly incompatible with the defence, restoration and extension of the powers of jurors, magistrates and parliamentarians.

We need to restore in full the proper powers of local government, with no tendering out of services in Conservative areas to the people who fund the local Conservative Party (in Labour areas, the Labour-funding unions rightly make sure that things are kept in house), no ultra vires principle, no surcharging, no capping, much proclamation of the fact that local government is significantly less profligate than central government, and none of the things that would not be tolerated in any other comparable country, not least including the frequent redrawing of boundaries, abolition of whole tiers, and such like.

We need to bring back the old committee system, which gave individual councillors real clout, and so made it worthwhile to buttonhole them in the street, in the pub, or wherever, or indeed to write to, telephone or email them; Eric Pickles has made a good start in allowing a return to that system, but he needs to require it. We need to repeal the provision for planning decisions to be delegated from councillors to officers. We need a system whereby each of us votes for one candidate and the requisite number, never fewer than two, is elected at the end.

And we need a fair, efficient, comprehensible and accountable system of funding. That needs to be an annual flat fee, fixed by the council in question, strictly voluntary, entitling the payer to vote and stand in elections to the council, and payable through the benefits system on behalf of the very poor. Central government would continue to meet much or all of the cost of statutory services to statutory standards. With its fees, the council could do pretty much whatever it liked on top, directly accountable to the people paying the bills.

Everyone uses lots of local services. Unless they send their children to commercial schools, as hardly anyone does, then most people make as much such use as each other, regardless of class or income; indeed, such things as street lighting are often significantly better in more affluent areas. But hardly anyone votes in local elections, because local government is emasculated yet expensive, and notoriously unaccountable. It has not always been any of those things.