Friday 4 May 2018

Local UK Elections 2018

As always these are a bit 'meh' - really who cares about some gal getting a non-paying job in a village the other end of the country?

It all makes me think though, what on earth is the point of all of our local Government - apart from make work jobs?

How can we possibly need the lowest level of democratic scrutiny being a small army of NIMBY's per village and then layered onto that regional, town, district and county councils? I am all in favour of participatory democracy but I can't see how this system adds to transparency or empowers anybody beyond the small-time busybodies who get involved.

There must be a case to hugely streamline the roles of the lower levels of local government and focus the budgets and services on fewer councils that have real power - this then would lead to people eventually paying more attention in elections where over 30% turnout is currently considered 'good'!

I look forward to Nick Drew's rebuttal of my position....


Bill Quango MP said...

I agree with Nick!

Actually, scrub that.Cu is correct. The system is quite ridiculous.

Is there really a socialist way of emptying the bins? Or a Capitalist way of trimming back hedgerows?

Its all mandated in the same centrally dictated manual on 'Bin emptying and hedgerow trimming directive to ensure UK and EU compliance across local authorities," isn't it?

Anonymous said...

"If CU wants to talk about the impact of council tax on local residents, I suggest he goes to Hazelbourne Road in Clapham. On one side of the road in a typical home, someone will pay nearly £1,400 in council tax. That of course is in Labour-run Lambeth. On the other side of the road someone in a typical home will pay just over £700 in council tax. That's in Conservative-run Wandsworth."

Anonymous said...

The only way to get more people to vote in local elections, and to make local councils more accountable to voters, is to revive a system whereby all voters contribute towards the cost of local services, and not just individual property owners and renters.

The fact that it was cravenly abandoned last time, just when it was beginning to work, is no reason to persist with the present system, which is potentially ruinous.

andrew said...

Agree with CU's analysis

Power should be taken away from regional, town, district and county councils
- indeed get rid of them.
The power (and the responsibility) should be passed to those Nimbys.

if a good way for companies to become more efficient and responsive is by delayering and delegating to the lowest level.

The same should apply to govt.

Nick Drew said...

OK, I'll bite

(backstory: I was a London borough councillor for 12 years, ending as Chair of a committee with very large responsibilities) (but that's a while ago now)

Enduring societies have depth, + checks-&-balances: and the role of civic power-&-responsibilty is important. If everything's being done by a central civil service, it's as brittle as hell and collapses into anarchy-followed-by-mafia the moment Ceaușescu is overthrown

some observations:

- in many councils there is little ideology in evidence, just people of goodwill doing their best - you could chat to some councillors for an hour and not be at all sure which party they represent: this is all pretty benign ...

- ... the more so because their powers are limited - maybe too limited (starting with Thatch, who couldn't bear anyone being able to do things she disagreed with); but then again, you can't seriously advocate the situation in Italy where the local authority has total power over planning applications whch results in (a) massive bribery and (b) even with bribery, no new industrial plant ever gets built, however strategically important it may be on the national scale (LNG terminals being a case in point)

- people who mock NIMBYs haven't had a traveller camp set up next door to them, or been threatened with a massive industrial incinerator

- even with the restrictions on LA powers there is quite a lot of scope for creative harm: Momentum have identified various ways of interpreting LA statutory mandates for malicious purposes and intend to run 'political education' for Lab councillors to teach them how to misbehave on a grand scale at public expense

- PFI has done as much damage at the LA level as it has with national government

- the old model where Committees had actual powers was good for engaging the maximum number of councillors in productive effort: but now all power is held, either by a Cabinet (= clique) or an elected Mayor. The average non-Cabinet-member councillor, even those in the 'ruling party', tries to big-up the importance of 'Scrutiny', but in truth it's empty and they are all highly frustrated. I've no idea why national government prefers things that way

I'm sure there would be plenty of ways to streamline things beneficially. I've never experienced parish councils (which don't exist in London) but at the start of my 12 years we had the GLC, the abolition of which seemed to work just fine: just us vs central govt. I should imagine the full nightmare-hierarchy of parish + town + county + central govt is a real nonsense

bottom lines

- you gotta try to engage people of goodwill (of which there are many) at levels they can relate to and be effective; a sensible principle of subsidiarity must surely be right, even though where you actually draw the lines must be arbitrary at the margin

- it's devilishly difficult to align the incentives, though many have tried: but, manifestly, an impoverished inner-city borough can no more pull itself up by its bootstraps than launch a moon-shot

Anonymous said...


You can prove anything with figures if you want to misrepreent them viz Enron or going back further, pension funds

From Conservative-run Wandsworth Council's accounts

"Central Government has effective control over the general operations of the Council - it is responsible for providing the statutory framework within which the Council operates **provides the majority of its funding** in the form of grants and prescribes the terms of many of the transactions that the Council has with other parties. "

From Labour-run Lambeth's accounts

"These are in incredibly tough times. Most of the money we have to spend comes from central government and that core funding’s been cut by 50%, so we have to find £90 million of savings over the next three years. The consequence of those government cuts will affect some of the most vulnerable people in our communities."

So you takes your money or cuts in your money and makes your choice.

Graeme said...

So maybe going back to the original US constitution with supreme court and building it up again. What's the point of a local regime that does not repair holes in the roads?

Anonymous said...

you gotta try to engage people of goodwill (of which there are many) at levels they can relate to and be effective;

This is actually happening in a way. Locally the cut back in staff at the council level and the local job centre has meant that work is being referred out to "Third sector" operations who are taking up the slack. Some TS operations are just a front for people milking the grants system (e.g. training) but others are genuinely making a difference to both local provision and the effectiveness of the council.

Something as simple as form filling for those who find it difficult allows the council to engage with residents without the need to have staff for that purpose. And the people who help complete the forms tend to have the skill sets that a council couldn't afford.

There has been some debate about how the State should organise itself going forward as it needs to resolve the issue of an aging population and the TS is one of the places that are filling the gaps being left as the State retreats.

Whether this is "right" or "wrong" will depend on your view of the State's responsibility. But while that is being debated, some of us just get on and do it.

Graeme said...

One good thing about local elections is that they give Liverpudlians something to be proud of