Because biscuits aren't scary.


Power to the people

Give us back our country! This could be the slogan for the BNP but this article isn't about race. It's about giving the people of this country control over their own affairs again.

It's called freedom- things like giving parents the choice about how they bring their children up. It's the very opposite of Blair trying to micro-manage them and his most recent eugenics proposal for disposing of 'problem' children even before they are born.

In local government only 5% of the budget is discretionary. So what's the point of voting? Is it any surprise that only about 20-30% actually bother?

On the other hand, most of the government services we need ARE local: health, education, fire, police, the environment, transport. So why is most of this stuff decided by Whitehall rather than your local councillors?

The reason is that national politicians think they need to offer bribes to get elected. Then to deliver on these bribes they need at least to try to make them happen, which means taking powers away from local councils. The trouble is, that despite their best intentions, the bribes have rarely been paid - health and education and transport and crime are all slipping below the western average.

This is also despite the best efforts of huge numbers of talented Civil Servants. Every day they devise new metrics or measure against them, to try and force improvements on Whitehall's enormous empire. Likewise, local governments, schools and hospitals employ their own armies of clerks producing statistics for the centre to prove their meeting their targets.

Consider this as an alternative model: close the following departments of state: health, education, the environment, the regions, transport, culture, international development and social security. Give their functions to local councils instead. At the same time all the laws binding the councils to do this and that (apart from funding the police) would be abolished, as would the rate cap.

At the centre we would be left with the original outward looking functions that are rightly done at a national level: defence, foreign affairs, the treasury and the home office to deal with the few remaining internal matters that can't be done locally (criminal law, immigration, national transport).

This is a classic way of shaking up a company, just applied to a country. It's not a cut. All the local authorities would be accountable to their own electorates for the delivery of service, many of which would be less forgiving that in a General Election.

Another benefit of this structure is that it would make sense of having national political brands at the local level. At the moment what do you get from a Conservative council as opposed to a Labour one - precious little really because they have so little freedom. With a devolved structure, the party leaderships would effect social improvement not through Whitehall diktat and legislation but through the party franchise (much as Virgin records keeps all its stores offering a similar level of service and products, for example). Innovations developed by pioneering councils could then be more easily transferred to others.

Even in Opposition in Westiminster, party leaders would still have a big job to do in looking after their councils. With the local elections every year, this would increase their engagement with real people.

Finally, it would solve the West Lothian Question. Instead of Scottish MPs telling us English how to run our country, our hospitals, our schools, without having to answer to their constituents for the consequences, Parliament wouldn't be voting on any of these things at all because they'd be devolved to the councils.

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