08 July 2006

It's Not Fair

My entry a week ago on local government* sparked two interesting comments which makes me want to clarify what I originally wrote.
It wasn't meant to be an attack on councils and councillors per se, but rather an attack on the centralised system of government we have today and the structure of governance that has caused this.
I believe that solving the Local Government problem would also solve the West Lothian problem, and the problems we currently have with 3 key public service areas - health, education and public transportation.
Ask yourself, what do you, as an ordinary citizen**, feel you can do if you don't like (for example) the current state of our education system:
  • Write a few letters to national newspapers?
  • Try, and probably fail, to organise a national campaign to argue for reform?
  • Or join such a national campaign?
  • Vote for the MP that supports your position?

Does his trip still matter?

My point is this - your voice is one in 60 million wanting to be heard, and you will probably be drowned out by the crowd. It's not fair is it?
Now ask yourself, what if local government had responsibility for education - and there was one clear person who had the most influence - the Mayor of the town or city you live in? He doesn't need to worry about 60 million voters, he needs to worry about the 1 million or so in his city and so your voice has become much louder.
If you felt his policy on education was wrong, you could:
  • Campaign to have him removed
  • Set up (or join) a regional association arguing for education reform
  • Write letters to regional newspapers.
Whilst you might have as much luck as if the issue was decided on a national level, if there was sufficient support for your position, you would at least have a genuine chance to change things. You would be an empowered citizen.
I'm not proposing a uniform system (and I appreciate my original entry made it seem like I am), but a devolved system of regional government, with clear lines of authority and which is thus simplier, more transparent and which ordinary people can understand and participate in much more easily.
The political system would become more responsive to the wishes of the people, and in a democracy, that is what counts - the people.

* Get the bed out now, half my readership (2 people) have fallen asleep.
** Not a political activist as you may be.

1 comment:

Chris Black said...

Hi Gavin this half of your readership is wide awake! So here's my two pennyworth for an early Sunday morning:

Yes, having powerful city mayors is an answer. Of course to be effective, central government would need to give up a lot of it's control. And central governments love control. If they did hand over that power, it might be equally well wielded by traditional councillor-based methods. (Although a mayoral system might entice extra, able, candidates to get involved).

Also I don't think we are talking about regional government here - this is sub-county level.

There will be the problem of sorting out boundaries. Let's suppose you have Bigborough, a city with a deprived centre and an afffluent suburb , Swishville. Beyond five miles of Green Belt is the town of Littleborough and a halo of small villages.

Where do you draw the city boundaries? For example Littleborough's residents might be happy to be part of a city for refuse collection but might feel their schools would be neglected by a big-city mayor.


Meanwhile, going off at a tangent slightly, I've felt for a long time that the natural smallest unit of local government is the primary school catchment area