Monday, 13 December 2010

"This cant about localism is a cover for eroding the local state and cutting from its soft underbelly"

David Walker is managing director, communications and public reporting at the Audit Commission

"... As for localism, this government is no different from its predecessor. It will keep central control of what it cares most about – spending. It is happy to let go of things it considers irrelevant or, in the case of the Tories, that will help them cut the state down to size. As soon as the vaunted new community activists start asking for more or the right to raise revenue, they will be squashed.

A true localist would extend councils' financial autonomy. Last week Pickles said councils would be allowed to raise taxes over his dead body. High up in the localism bill is a measure designed to intimidate councillors by threatening referendums on plans to raise tax above some centrally specified threshold. The Treasury is vetoing any move to give councils control of the money they collect from business – in case they choose to increase it.

All this is determinedly anti-localist. At this stage in the financial cycle, councils should be looking for other sources of revenue, perhaps from tourist or sales taxes, increased fees for dog licences and so on – just what is happening in Germany, for instance. But from the government there is not a word about freedom of fiscal action in England..."

.....and their scarcely hidden delight in bringing about the destruction of local government and with it any form of accountablility just so their friends in the market place can run riot on the crumbs it hopes to devour while they bring about the ruin of a fairly successful and accountable system of local government built up over the decades but now brought to its knees in one foul swoop. And once again it will be those already used and abused in society who are going to suffer. A further disgrace and one that history will judge them in a very unfavourable manner.


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