Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A New Localism

Yesterday, I had the good fortune to meet Oliver Letwin at Westminster and I will confess that several of the remarks he made, struck a chord of common sense, even if I am biased towards the centre right in politics. I made some quick notes before I forgot.

“This government”, he said, “is better at absorbing money than others but rather less good at delivering quality and value than other countries.”

“The centre-left approach to well-intentioned goals has not been successful.”
And perhaps most importantly for local politics he talked about “The New Localism, in “an open-textured and modern world” giving back control to local government from a centre that has created intensive monitoring and a, targets-based culture: “

“We recognise” said Letwin, “the same challenges and share initiatives but have a different view of how they will be realised.

Reflecting on what Letwin said, I think that you and I recognise that “Big” government doesn’t work. With a public sector expanding by 13% per annum and the private sector by only 8% there’s an obvious problem around the corner, pointed out by another person yesterday, who said that we have only ‘4.5’ world class universities in this country , 39% of our PhD students come from abroad and we can’t retain them. We will see a budget speech this week from a Chancellor who has to find the money to pay for public sector growth and there’s the problem, public sector expansion of this kind is on a par with chronic obesity. At some point in the not too distant future, the patient, in this case, the UK economy, is going to have a coronary as it depends on an increasingly shrinking private sector workforce to support everyone else.

So do you think we need a new localism - which many see as a 'fudge' and to wrest control back from the centre. Le me know.


sue said...

I definitely believe in the localisation of the political system. Local Goverment should have the right to opt out of some national legislation.
Having said that, under such a system, Local Government would have to be a damn sight more accountable than it seems to be at the moment. Proportional representation would be an essential. NO unelected officials.
No use of Council Tax for private investment. Thanet would need its own Local government. KCC does not take care of biznez in Thanet.
Uh-oh. There are some men in white suits just pulling up......

DrMoores said...

I'm hoping to have an answer to your earlier question from the chief executive, Until then, any suggestion of democracy is heady stuff and we should all be thankful we don't live in Zimbabwe!

Michael Child said...

The problem with district councils is being governed by a rival town, however you look at it Ramsgate is governed from Margate, the majority of council officers living and working in Margate, where their relations are likely have businesses. This extends back historically, when Ramsgate was governed by Sandwich the local government of the time tried and nearly succeeded in preventing the building of Ramsgate harbour. The proposed a scheme for building a canal between Sandwich and the coast failed because the architect was away busy with Westminster bridge, also his design that partly sank and had to have considerable rebuilding. I see Herne Bay governed by Canterbury, no conflict of interest and Folkestone governed by Dover as prime examples. So yes to transparent local government at town level, with those governing having a vested interest in their own town, even those who are rogues are likely to want to make their town better than the one down the road, but no to these district councils that seem to have all the disadvantages of both local and national government.

Anonymous said...

I am all for local govt being made stronger but as we have seen over 10 years, the PC central govt philosophies and policies are just put into practice by local authorities despite their political persuasion. With notification that almost a 1/4 of my state pension element is to be paid out this year in Council Tax ( a demand for £1,193 works out at almost £23 per week) poverty in old age is coming my way, unless I go begging to the State for hand-outs!

sue said...

"....any suggestion of democracy is heady stuff and we should all be thankful we don't live in Zimbabwe!"

I agree of course but I didn't think Democracy was relative.

DrMoores said...

As democracy continues to die across the planet, I fear that rather than a "New localism" a new relatavism takes its place.. i.e. it's pretty bad here but it could be worse in other "democratic states" such as Iraq, Iran or indeed, Zimbabwe!

sue said...

Yes it's true it's always been used as an argument to dispel criticism.