I picked up my copy of `First` this morning with two articles essentially about `Localism` and the need to rebalance the distribution of power between Central Government and Councils.
Angela Eagle, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, has an article entitled `Challenges and Opportunities`.
Her article talks of the recent Local Government bill (My capitals!) saying that it will reshape the dynamic between Central and Local government, whilst establishing a stronger role for Councils in leading their communities and pushing forward local priorities.
It goes on `Since becoming Prime Minister, Gordon Brown has made it clear that he wants a new concordat between Central and Local Government, with significant steps towards greater local autonomy. Alongside the Government’s bonfire of Local Government performance targets and controls are moves to reform the UK’s constitutional settlement. The governance of Britain Green paper…holds out the prospect of further devolution and greater involvement of local people in decision making. This has far-reaching consequences for town halls up and down the country just as it does for central government departments up and down Whitehall. (wait a minute will the transport bill that effectively allows the Secretary of State for Transport forcing of a congestion charge on Stockport Council be dropped?)
The article states that sub-national economic development and regeneration…will give Councils greater scope to respond to local and regional economic challenges, putting local politicians and institutions at the heart of continuing economic development.
Under the heading `Powers for local leaders` the article states `We want to give greater freedom and powers for good local leaders (define `good`) to innovate, extending their role in promoting jobs, the environment, learning and skills and regeneration. And we want to make sure that plans for new jobs, transport and economic growth in the region.`
Now here’s the rub – `Obviously, all of these aspirations must take place against the backdrop of this year’s comprehensive spending review. The settlement for local government is likely to be tight – and the drive for greater efficiency at a local level will become more important than ever. But out of these pressures are opportunities for new ways of working, to the benefit of both local and central government – for example over shared procurement and services. (Stockport Borough won awards for benefits payments – how will the Lib Dems in Stockport define great performance if all performance is shared?)
First, there is no timetable for all this and Second, it is still the Central Government driving the vehicle. I simply don’t see how this changes a lot unless there’s A CHANGE IN THE STRUCTURE OF DEMOCRACY and A CHANGE IN THE WAY THE CIVIL SERVICE AND CENTRAL GOVERNMENT ARE ASSESSED ie what do we need from Central Government and what do we see as the role of Local Councils?
Labour have invested so much psychological energy in their own Government’s survival and Brown/Blair Statism they wouldn’t know what `Changing the way Britain is run, throwing open the doors of government and letting the people in` means.