Thursday, 25 September 2008

David Cameron looks to 'work with the boroughs'

Local authorities would be given 'massive' powers over policing, health and skills spending, under proposals drawn up by a Conservative policy group.

The group which includes Boris Johnson's 'chief of staff' Sir Simon Milton, recommends devolving more powers to borough and district councils as well as creating more regional elected mayors.

David Cameron is expected to announce soon which of these policies he will pursue, but he will almost certainly propose further devolution of powers to individual authorities.

Milton's proposals will please those Conservative London Assembly members such as Tony Arbour, who have relentlessly lobbied for more powers to be taken away from City Hall.

However, paradoxically the move to establish more elected mayors, may well take powers away from other local authorities elsewhere.

The proposals have not been released in full but they are said to include the now obligatory call to cut back on regulation with: 

"councils judged against locally set targets drawn up in conjunction with local businesses and other parties."

Which if I was to be cynical (and I will) translates as:

"councils judge their own low performance against their own low targets drawn up after discussing them with their low business mates."

Because the problem with the relentless drive to 'localism' is that those decisions which would otherwise be taken and scrutinised at a national or regional level, are pushed off to a place where they receive little or no press attention or opposition whatsoever.

And while all the eyes are forever on the national government's every move, at a local level, corruption can often take a grip without even so much as a whisper.

Of course, the standard calls to 'give away more powers' and to 'extend democracy' always goes down well.

But when those powers are being given away at precisely the time when whole swathes of the country are losing all press scrutiny, then it is not something that should be allowed to pass without question.


Will said...

Giving away powers to the boroughs all sounds very wonderful until you see the kinds of people who inhabit the council offices of this country.

They are either

a) nobody local busybodies
b) nobody wannabe MPs
c) nobody businessmen out for more influence
d) nobody nutters

Better the devil you know i say.

Tom said...

Local boroughs are, unless tackled by some kind of campaign to raise awareness, elected by absurdly low turnouts. Unless you raise that then Cameron's plans are anti-democratic.

Of course it could be argued that the turnout is low because they don't have any powers, but that misses the point.

The Troll said...

I think you may have been a little unfair on our good councilmen and women there Will.

Will said...

I don't. Care to name any good ones?

The Troll said...

Not really no. I don't really want to host the Councillor of the Year awards. Besides I'm not really interested in individual councillors, but in their powers and accountability.

eric ray said...

Odd this, considering how much the Tories did to rid local councils of power and local decision making.
Also strange that they are so keen to have local businesses setting targets given the failure of the financial markets - what can they teach local government? Bradford and Bingley inspections? Consultants from AIG?
I think it might be time to let local government function without the market's failures.