Monday, 3 March 2008

From drink to casinos, the answer is local

There are few elements of national infrastructure that warrant direct central government determination; defence installations are one, strategic international travel infrastructure is perhaps another.

As to casinos, what business is it of government to determine their number and location? If the people of Blackpool, for instance, believe their future lies in becoming the UK's Las Vegas, and can persuade investors to put their money in, why shouldn't this be a local decision?

Ownership of second homes is to be made subject to planning consent, but though the decision will be taken locally the criteria and the 'tests' will be determined by government, and will doubtless incorporate some inane socialist social engineering objectives. Why not enable local communities to make their own planning rules?

As for 24 hour drinking, what arrogance of government to believe that a central Statist fit-all prescription was ever appropriate. What suits Newcastle may not suit Chichester; what works in a non-residential entertainment cluster may not work in a quiet village. If anything demands a locally determined framework, it is alcohol licencing. For many years the people of some Welsh villages didn't want the pubs open on a Sunday. If that's their wish, why should government ride roughshod over the wishes of local people?

If the smoking ban had been left to local solutions, we would have seen a whole raft of measures tailored to the needs and wishes of local communities. Some licencing areas may have exempted clubs, some may have imposed an outright ban, some may have made conditions requiring parts of the building being made smoke-free, some would have allowed owners and operators to make their own decisions.

All of the above demonstrate the fundamental wrongness of Labour's belief that central Statist prescriptive solutions can tackle every social issue. Our grandfathers would have found the idea that Big State considerations in parliament would include national controls on littering or dog fouling quite ludicrous.

I'm lucky enough to have a window cleaner, whose ladder I can hear as I type. How long, I wonder, before the government produces research demonstrating a link between dirty windows and anti-social behaviour or obesity or whatever, and legislates to require the population to polish their glazing or face spot fines? Not too ridiculous for words, I fear.


Tony Kennick said...

I agree with virtually everything you say, but drink is a bad example. The government didn't bring in 24 drinking for all, they reformed licensing so instead of the unelected magistrates controlling it the council does. OK they gave them much larger leeway with opening hours but it is down the individual authority to set the policy. Go read the archive copies of the publican and morning advertiser for the bleeting of the drinks trade that councils were implementing the legislation differently. If the voters of your North Walian elect councillors to set policies that preclude drinking on a Sunday they can. Or they have the ultimate freedom of personal choice, not to go to the pub. if enough of the village feel like that the landlord just won't bother opening on a Sunday.
In any case your talk of 24 hour drinking is somewhat of a misnomer for almost everyone, I live in the fifth biggest city in the country and I can't drink for 24 hours. On a Friday night the last pub I would enjoy drinking in is shut by 1 and any club where I will enjoy the music by 3, if I went and listened to dance music I could get a bar till 6 but then nowhere else will open again until 8.

Nick Drew said...

You've been very consistent in your promotion of localism, R, and when (ages ago) I commented that you need to watch out for local corruption, you acknowledged the point but replied (as I recall)

(a) local people know what's going on and have the greatest incentive to root it out
(b) it's a price worth paying

I understand the attraction - I was a local councillor for 12 years and railed against the Thatcher-initiated diminution of local powers

But what about the Jersey horror ? It's clear that local people, with considerable local autonomy, knew broadly what was going on there for a long time, but the usual intimidation and 'don't-rock-the-boat'ism prevailed, at all levels

Raedwald said...

Nick -

Yes, the systematic cover-up in Jersey is appalling. As far as I can make out from wasn't an 'institutional evil' but the very 1950s attitude that actually makes Jersey so attractive; children were not trusted to tell the truth about abuse. If Jersey has resisted the whole 'rights' culture, including 'children's rights' that have caused so much heartwringing here, then the downside is that children are more vulnerable to adult abuse.

While no one wants a return to the "You're a very wicked little girl and shouldn't tell such lies" cover-up of abuse, there's surely some happy medium between the two extremes?

A proper regime of inspection of children's homes CAN be implemented locally, but I agree that some external recourse should be available if, as in the Jersey case, there's a collective local will to disbelieve that there's a problem

Anonymous said...

First, your window-cleaner will be so hung about with regulations (when did that ladder last have its statutory test? Who certified the cloths as being germ-free? Show us your Operating Procedures? Where is your risk-assessment?) etc etc, that he will either give up (result for the State), or become an illegal (another result for the State).

Then, if you dare to do it yourself, you'll be hit with all the same shite.

Preferred solution - your local authority's approved Window-Cleaning service: they charge £25+VAT for each window, and take pictures of all your possessions while they're doing the work, in readiness for the next tax onslaught.