This demand is summed up in the one word ‘Referism’ as the government has to ‘refer’ to the people for their funding.
A government without money can do nothing but it is our money they collect and spend so we believe that we should therefore be consulted over their proposed annual budget a decision currently left to parliament but to date has never voted down the chancellor’s budget.
Concern was expressed when formulating this demand that the people would simply vote themselves more money every year but experience from a number of local authority referendums, around the turn of the century, to seek approval form the electorate for the level of rates, offering a choice between a rise, status quo or reduction, had the people realistically opting, in most cases, for the status quo.
The people seemed more than capable of judging whether they wanted to vote for an increase to their rates to cover an increase in services and given that choice told their councils to consolidate their spending rather than increase it.
This concept of local referendums was taken up by the Conservative party in 2010 who passed a law that would make Councils have to hold a referendum if they wished to raise rates above 2%. Interestingly councils kept their increases to below 2% to avoid having to consult the people who would most likely have contested their spending plans.
So while the experiment to hold referendums, to get the people’s approval on budgets, has been tried at the local level it has not been tried at the national level.
Some worry that rejection of the national budget would disrupt government programmes but should the budget not be approved the government would automatically carry on with the same amount of money approved the year before thus giving them time to amend and resubmit their budget for approval.
The holding of referendums need not be an expensive exercise and we have always envisaged that the introduction of electronic voting would speed up the process and reduce the costs significantly.
It’s our money and we should approve the government’s plans to spend it – it really is that simple.