I was struck by the headline, opposite, in today’s Kent on Sunday.
In the story, Cllr. Chris Wells, KCC’s cabinet member for education, said he “Broadly agrees” with David Cameron’s defense of parents who fake religious conviction, in order to gain a place for a child in a faith school and that it’s happening in every faith school in the country. He added that “Parents were prepared to jump through hoops” to get their children into a good school.
It would be interesting to see if readers agree with David Cameron. Would you pretend that you had a religious conviction to get your child a place in a good school or are you closer to the other side of the spectrum of conviction like former No10 advisor Alastair Campbell and his partner Fiona Miller, whose view appears to be that one should set an example and send one’s child to the nearest (sometimes inner city) state school, regardless of its standards. What do you think?
Last week, the BBC were out and about attempting to gauge public reaction to the news of council tax rises. What struck me and its frequently reflected in local newspaper stories and on our Thanet weblogs is that not a single man or woman ‘on the street’ interviewed, understood the relationship between central and local government and that only a proportion of local services are paid for by local taxes.
In a heavily oversimplified view, It may be best to think of a local council like a cash-strapped household with the bills going-up all the time. It has fundamental priorities, which for a council can be the likes of social welfare and rubbish collection and a corporate plan which it works towards, which in our case can include the regeneration of Margate and growing the local economy. Where the latter is concerned, if it grows, then there are more jobs and more people paying taxes, a proportion of which are spent on paying for and improving services and so-on. If you have an unusually high proportion of the population unemployed or on sickness benefit then, like any home with the same, there’s very little money to go around and you can’t get credit either.
So when people say, “I blame the council for X & Y” it could well be that the council simply hasn’t the money to spare for anything beyond the items it has budgeted for and the councillors are there to offer a level of democratic oversight on decisions and spending, rather like the shareholders of a large company.
But you wait. There will be more letters in the paper next month asking why the council is spending £30 million of our council taxes on the Turner centre. So perhaps we should ask ourselves why local government is so poor at explaining what it does or is it that the preconception that the public holds is so strong, no amount of communications will make a difference?