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.