Monday 21 September 2020

"All politics is local"

 The quote used in this title is famously associated with the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tip O'Neill.

Our second demand is about 'Real Local Democracy' and is the main reason I became interested recently in Somerset's plans to become a Unitary Authority (UA).

Somerset currently has a County Council (CC), four District Councils(DC) and then the Parish and Town Councils beneath them.

We already have 55 UAs in England and local government in Wales and Scotland are all based on UAs.

Westminster has set out three criteria for any county to submit plans to becoming a UA.

1. Any UA should improve local governance.

2. The proposal should command a good deal of local support.

3. Any UA population to be larger than 300,000 to 400,000.

Somereset County Council's business case 'One Somerest', all 148 pages of it, tells us that there will be improved service outcomes focused on prevention and value for money (?), that support is growing for the plan and that the population of Somerset is currently 560,000.

First all centralisers say that things will be improved, while the only way to prove the plans popularity would be hold a referendum and finally by any measure an organisation looking after 560,000 people is not local.

In our pamphlet we point out that the sovereign independent country Iceland, with its own law making parliament, police, fishing policy and navy to enforce it, only has a population of 366,000 with 59 local    municipalities which on average makes the population of each one only 6203. That is what local democacy looks like not the "One Somerset" proposals.

Every CC or UA are still predominately agents of central government with around 30% of their income coming from central government grants.

Doing away with DCs and centralising power into UAs is not improving local democracy but the exact opposite and is typical of the way big goverments work believing that centralising power in some way improves democracy.

Local people want their councillors to be accessable and accountable and centralising power seldom if ever achieves that.   

Wednesday 2 September 2020

Demand four - The People's Consent.

 My 18 years experience of business life make me sympathetic to the principles of workers cooperatives typified perhaps by the sign on my notice board behind my desk which read "It's difficult to soar like an eagle when you are working for turkeys!" I was strongly of the opinion that those above me far too often had become divorced from what was really happening on the ground. Even so my sign was I guess a tad provacative and could well explain why I never got promoted!

Anyway much as I favour the 'workers' involvement and abiltiy to influence the direction of their companies I feel it would be disastrous for any firms future if the they could ultimately call the shots.

This then is the reasoning behind the first part of our fourth demand 'The People's Consent' which allows the People the opportunity, through a referendum, to let the government know about a new policy they want. This however is only advisory albeit it would be very foolish of any government to ignore the wishes of the majority. 

The other two parts, to our fourth demand, aren't advisory but compulsory and the government of the day must action the People's wishes if a majority demand it. The second part enables the people to stop a piece of govenment legislation and the third enables the people to object to such things as planning applications and the sentences issued by our courts. 

'The People's Consent' is an essential ingredient to restoring real democracy which allows a sovereign people the mechanisms, via referendums, to truly exert their will.