Make local government local

Proposer
digitalWestie
State

Rejected

Vote Score

-1000

Age

1864 days


@digitalWestie edited manifesto/local_government.md - about 5 years ago

Transparency

Publish full minutes (or transcripts if available), audio recordings, and voting records from all local council meetings. Online publication should be performed within 24 hours. Software tools will be created to make this process simple.

Publish full minutes (or transcripts if available), audio recordings, and voting records from all local council meetings. Online publication should be performed within 24 hours. Software tools will be created to make this process simple.

Scale

Size of local authorities in England vary massively, however many unitary authorities measure between 150,000 to 300,000. In Scotland the average is 165,000. The European average is 5000. The average size of an authority in Scotland sees local authorities spanning an area 45x the size of equivalent bodies in Europe[^1]. Much the same is true of rural local authorities in England and Wales. Local government should be about empowering communities and not managing them in absentia. As such steps should be taken to decentralise local government while ensuring they maintain powers they require to act. Where required joint-boards should be created or expanded to handle prevent splitting up services.

[^1]: Effective Democracy: Reconnecting with Communities (pdf)

digitalWestie

@digitalWestie - about 5 years ago

Learn from good models of local governance across Europe. Let's make local government local by gradually making local authorities smaller. The system of local governance in England seems quite complex too. Something to consider?

@digitalWestie edited manifesto/local_government.md - about 5 years ago

Transparency

Publish full minutes (or transcripts if available), audio recordings, and voting records from all local council meetings. Online publication should be performed within 24 hours. Software tools will be created to make this process simple.

Publish full minutes (or transcripts if available), audio recordings, and voting records from all local council meetings. Online publication should be performed within 24 hours. Software tools will be created to make this process simple.

Scale

Sizes of local authorities in England vary massively. However, most unitary authorities measure between 150,000 to 300,000 in population. In Scotland the average is 165,000. The European average is 5000. In terms of kilometers squared, local authorities in Scotland span an area 45x the size of equivalent bodies in Europe[^1]. Much the same is true of rural local authorities in England and Wales. Local government should be about empowering communities and not managing them in absentia. As such steps should be taken to decentralise local government while ensuring they maintain powers they require to act. Where required joint-boards should be created or expanded to handle prevent splitting up services.

[^1]: Effective Democracy: Reconnecting with Communities (pdf)

frankieroberto

@frankieroberto - about 5 years ago

👎 I'd rather see local authorities get bigger, not smaller, especially in cities and the commuter belts around cities. Rationale: lots of things that local governments do (transport, leisure, education) work best 'at scale'. Also: people move around within an area, and if council areas were smaller, they'd end up represented by a council they didn't vote for (as well as the switching costs).

That said, it's unclear what exactly you mean by local authorities, given that there's a tiered system in many systems (with up to 3 tiers if you include parish councils).

digitalWestie

@digitalWestie - about 5 years ago

This is probably a bigger issue in Scotland where there are only 2 tiers. Community councils have fewer powers than parish councils and have less funding. In some rural areas the seat of the council can be 4 hours drive (& perhaps a ferry) away. There is strong evidence (from COSLA report & other writing) that this system is far too centralised.

However, the GB as a whole suffers from the lowest level of turnout in the EU (http://www.crest.ox.ac.uk/papers/p77.pdf). This should be cause for concern.

Perhaps my proposal's focus on scale doesn't fly as much in England where in some cases there already exist another tier of governance. At its core though, this proposal is about the lack of power at a the local level. Note, I'm also taking into account the context of this manifesto where we are proposing devolved regions to handle some of these responsibilities.

I think there are some models abroad we should look to. Consider in Sweden the first £30,000 of income tax goes to your local authority and there are 290 of them in a country of just under 10 million (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MunicipalitiesofSweden). The responsibility & power that lies with these municipalities is in some cases greater than the unitary authorities we have (155 across England and Wales). I'm finding it hard to find figures on Swedish municipality turnouts but I'm willing to bet it was significantly better than our abysmal 29~39% ...

In the UK, it seems we confuse local and regional governance. That's understandable, because we've never known anything else.

digitalWestie

@digitalWestie - about 5 years ago

Okay, looks like the majority of the discussion on this is happening elsewhere (#74), will close this and continue discussion there.