You may have seen a news item today about the government allowing local people to help decide council budgets. This is only being tried out in a few areas – not in Rochford, at least for now. For one thing, our budget is pretty tight, the public would be frustrated at the restricted amount of money that is available to spend on ‘optional’ items.
Rick Baum, who is a Lib Dem councillor in Lancashire, has written a sensible piece today about the general idea:
This morning’s news that the government’s new Communities Secretary, Hazel Blears, has announced plans for more powers for communities, is good news.
The government have said that ten pilot areas will trial the idea of giving budgetary powers to local people – essentially giving communities a voice over how many millions of pounds of local money is spent.
I applaud these ideas, but I think we need caution in quite how they’re executed. At present, power in this country is far too centralised, and we desperately need more power in the hands of more people locally.
But the headline today seems to be about taking power from town halls, rather than from Whitehall. It is my view that town halls don’t have enough power in the first place, and that this is the cause of the democratic deficit we see today.
The current government, and those before it, have become ever more centralised, stripping local government of the powers it once had.
Decades ago councils could revolutionise our towns and cities, whereas now they are sometimes little more than glorified planning committees. So of course local people aren’t interested. Why would they be?
Read the rest of the item here.