Thursday, 8 October 2009

Localism needs local taxes

Michael Heseltine writes a useful forward to Localis' new publication 'Can Localism deliver?' but the lessons learned from Manchester as given in the report don't go nearly far enough if Localism is to be effective. For Localism to deliver, taxes should be set and levied locally and a precept passed on to central government for those functions that can only be undertaken effectively at national level, such as defence or air traffic control.

The balance between income, property and consumption taxes required to pay the national precept and to fund a locally determined range of public services must be in the hands of democratically elected local bodies, and the administrative level at which those services are provided should also be determined locally. Policing, health, education, sanitation, welfare, planning, transport and social services will immediately become at least 100% more efficient and effective if the suffocating maw of Whitehall micro-management is removed.

Opponents will point to places such as Newham or Bradford, where third-world electoral corruption has arrived along with large immigrant populations, and predict that financial corruption will be as endemic as it is in Pakistan or Nigeria if local politicians are allowed these sort of powers. And the answer is yes, it will happen, and that this is an argument for greater local democracy, not less; local powers of recall and indictment, and effective scrutiny and transparency, together with an unfettered press and media will ensure that local corruption is nipped in the bud, and those that abuse their office are jailed for lengthy terms.

Opponents will also point to the Lyons Inquiry, which concluded that local taxation apart from a property-based tax was unfeasible. And who told Sir Michael so? HMRC, of course. Because his remit was limited to a replacement for Council Tax only, and not to a radical rolling-back of the central State, it is something on a non-Inquiry as far as Localism goes. You've only got to look across the Atlantic to learn that locally-based taxation can be highly efficient - even when administered by very small communities of 5,000 - 10,000 people.

The Manchester pilot was just fiddling around the edges in a way that is no threat to established Whitehall power interests. It wasn't Localism.

At 2 o'clock this afternoon Cameron will deliver his closing speech to the Manchester conference. Localists from across Britain will be listening eagerly.

1 comment:

Witterings From Witney said...

Hear hear! Unfortunately localists across Britain will, I fear, be disappointed as neither Cameron, nor his party, really appreciate what 'localism' is neither will they be prepared to loosen their 'grip' on society.