Councils respond to Communities in Control

The Local Government Association has responded to the white paper Communities in Control on behalf of local authorities across the country. They are clearly anxious about finances:

Councils will work with the Government to ensure that any additional responsibilities that councils have as a result of these proposals are properly funded.

and are keen that not too much power goes to the people:

It is through representative democracy that elected councillors make tough decisions based on the interests of residents and this should remain the lynchpin of involving people locally.

Worth reading in full – thanks to Dominic for the link.

6 thoughts on “Councils respond to Communities in Control”

  1. I suppose there is a universe where this…

    “It is through representative democracy that elected councillors make tough decisions based on the interests of residents and this should remain the lynchpin of involving people locally.”

    … translates as “(we are) keen that not too much power goes to the people”….

    But I’ve not been to it. I’ve not really heard the argument that representative democracy isn’t the most effective means of putting power in the hands of the people, but I’d be interested to hear it….

  2. Paulie – the white paper is all about giving power to local communities to make things better for themselves and others. That might mean bypassing traditional democratic structures. It looked to me like the LGA was warning against this.

  3. No it isn’t about bypassing traditional democratic structures. Nowhere does it announce an intention to bypass representative democracy. It does twitter on a bit about active citizenship and petitions, and so on, but you can confidently predict that the classical objections to well-organised interest groups will rise fairly quickly and dampen them down.

    If it did genuinely threaten to bypass representative government in any meaningful way, it would be a constitutional outrage that would make ID Cards, 42 Days, the proliferation of CCTV, the untiely death of Mrs Carta, a formal signature of a European Consitution (so named), a compulsory 100% DNA database, the RIP Bill look like minor bits of illiberality.

  4. We are talking at cross-purposes here, I think. There are different ways of getting things done – one is by communities and groups self-organising and doing stuff themselves, the other route is getting an institution involved. By and large, for local issues this means the local authority and therefore contacting a councillor, etc etc.

    It may be that councils take some comfort in being involved and exerting some control over such initiatives. It may not be in the best interests of the community that that is the case, however. So what are the other ways that people can organise themselves?

    I don’t see this type of thing being a constitutional outrage.

  5. No – what you’re saying isn’t a consitutional outrage. But you interpretted a pro-representative democracy statement as proof of an unwillingness to give ‘power to the people’.

    I don’t have a problem with self-organistion or mutual aid either, but that’s not what this white paper is advocating.

    I do object to a government encouraging people to draft petitions and giving petitions any status. A stupid idea with 5000 signatures behind it is still a stupid idea. Who takes responsibility when it goes wrong?

    I object to the public being encouraged to exercise powers of scrutiny that don’t involve going through councillors – it’s a green light to pressure groups, local newspapers, organised busy-bodies and middle-class lobbies to bully people who have been elected to represent the *whole* community.

    I object to the half-baked attempt to give unelected ‘voluntary bodies’ more say in how local government is run. I work full-time – I don’t have time to get involved in the details of local government. I elect people to do that for me. Now, I’ll find The Usual Suspects – people with time on their hands – having an inordinate say in how my local authority is being run.

    As a voter that doesn’t subscribe to any of these voluntary bodies, it will diminish my say in local government.

    You say that “…it may be that councils take some comfort in being involved and exerting some control over such initiatives..”

    In my experience ,they are very keen to hand all decisions up to central government. This is the real problem, and a more confident represenative government is the solution to this problem. Thankfully, the White Paper has elements of this buried in it – the bits that the LGA are keen on, by the way…

  6. Interestingly a survey we recently conducted generally found a high level of satisfaction with a councils service, people thought their councils did a good job.

    On the other hand most participants thought the council did a poor job in communicating their ideas, or indeed how they are spending your money.

    My take on the white paper is that it is this aspect (what a council does, why it does it, and what is costs) that central gov is saying to councils – get connected with your communities and communicate – now that is a good thing surely.

    The problem is how to fund all this, especially when it comes to digital inclusion, and a reluctance of councils to make themselves more accountable.

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