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.   


  1. 1. Any UA should improve local governance.

    That's got to be a joke. From my Council's latest accounts:

    The UK government has effective control over the general operations of the Authority – it is responsible for providing the statutory framework, within which the Authority operates, provides funding in the form of grants and prescribes the terms of many of the transactions that the Authority has with other parties (e.g. council tax bills, housing benefits).

    Note also that Council Funding 2019/20 is £528m and Council Tax income £145m ie 27% or just over a quarter of the income. So others, mainly UK government, are 3 times more important as those who pay Council Tax. Fat chance for local democracy then.

    The gap between THA and our local governance is huge. I see no movement likely to change that. We might wait for economic collapse for the mobs to rise up, and hope that they will cleave to the THA, but history dictates that they will be led by some charismatic leader that says the things that tickles the ears of the mob.

    1. Clearly THA will not advance without the support of the 'People' the future of improving our democracy lies in thier hands and THA is not going away and will be here when needed.

      Good ideas never die even if they take time to catch on.