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Wednesday, 15 December 2010

I can't pretend that Localism Bill isn't a crock

Stable democracy requires two things - an elected representative body, and the power to raise revenue. When Eric Pickles declaims over and over that he wants to devolve power to the lowest level, to communities and neighbourhoods, you'd therefore think his highest priorities would be to create and empower new democratic arrangements at the level of the Parish, to give legitimacy to a new tier of truly local representative bodies, together with revenue raising powers, to get rid of the dreadful mistakes of the 1974 local government reforms, to ditch Labour's State control over every local matter. Not a bit of it.

The Localism Bill is like a huge, long, wet Pickles fart. It makes a lot of noise, smells sweet only to Eric but drives away those who were prepared to give credence to the government's posturing over Localism. Whitehall is overjoyed; here is just another over-complex but utterly meaningless piece of legislation that entrenches central State control over the localities. So who cares that a few villages may choose to run the village hall? 

Simon Jenkins has the truth of it in the Guardian this morning. The coalition, having gained power, aren't willing to give up a single gramme of it to anyone, least of all you and I. They want to keep the big unwieldy councils because they're easier to control; the thought of 8,000 parishes each with a council and the right to collect VAT fills Pickles and Whitehall with horror.  

What a missed opportunity. 


Weekend Yachtsman said...

I think stable democracy requires a third thing - people willing to participate and take responsibility.

It is another of NuLab's tragic - almost criminal - legacies, that they debased politics so much that decent effective people now want nothing to do with it, thus leaving the field clear for the political class, with results we see all around us.

Until ordinary useful productive tax-paying citizens are again prepared to do their bit, any localism bill is simply wishful thinking.

Tarka the Rotter said...

You are right, Weekend Yachtsman, in thinking that stable democracy requires people willing to participate and take responsibility. The problem is, such people tend to be middle-class and often get involved in order to pursue their own agenda (one thinks of parent governors in schools). The other aspect of this results from years of Welfare State dependency - i.e. somebody else will do it etc etc. As for me, I'd like to see much more local democaracy, with parishes operating more like French communes and the re-introduction of manorial courts to administer local justice on the spot.