Today, the Scottish Green Party published a report authored by myself on renewing local democracy. There is no need to say a great deal in this blog other than to highlight the fact that there are two inquiries currently underway on the topic. The first of these is COSLA’s Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy and the second is the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Regeneration Committee’s inquiry into the Future of Local government in Scotland.
Scottish Green Party Media Release
The full report is available here.
Blog and video of press conference here.
(I got some of my figures wrong in my verbal presentation as I didn’t get back from London until 5am having been rescued by East Coast’s Thunderbird Engine and leaving Edinburgh 2 hours later for the journey to Nairn)
It’s a hardy perennial
and some observations therefrom:
Keep on truckin’!
Andy, I would suggest that you need to look again at your figure for the number of councils at the lowest tier in England.
I’ve been doing some work with the Fair Trade Centre in Garstang recently, and was amazed to discover that they have a Town (parish) Council with some real powers – see http://www.garstang.net/town_council.php
As their website says, “Parishes have been around for a long time and are the smallest areas of civil administration in England, providing the statutory tier of local government closest to the people.” But your figures don’t seem to take them into account.
Wikipedia has a useful article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parish_councils_in_England. This says there are approximately 8,500 such councils in England, even though they only cover 35% of the population.
The Wikipedia article on communes in France (which you include in your figures) suggests they are roughly equivalent to parishes in England. Ian Baxter also made the same comparison to me.
All this of course only further highlights how much worse off we are in Scotland. I’ve a feeling you may favour the abolition of community councils in Scotland because they are so utterly powerless, but surely an alternative would be to campaign for them to be given equivalent powers to parish councils in England?
Yes – I am well aware of Parish Councils. They are not considered part of the statutory local government system, however de to the simple fact that they are not universal. If you read the Euro-wide stats they are for the universal statutory system that is in place. I agree though that England is far more democratic than Scotland in this regard but if Scotland is to flourish it needs the hard-wired system I talk about modelled on a more conventional continental European system.
Another level of government, often ‘elected’ without contention due to lack of interest, predominantly filled by the retired middle class. Generally unrepresentative, narrow in focus and priorities and able to tax. Parish Councils. I’m glad we don’t have them in Scotland. One less bit of meaningless red tape to spent public money on. Community Councils have a voice, when they bother to constitute themselves. They are considered by Local Government and are normally given greater weight than individuals in due process. The system we currently have isn’t perfect, but it far from the disaster many make it out to be. While full blown centralisation is not good, neither is parochial fragmentation. For efficiency and consistency to exist, there needs to be a reasonable geographic reach for most local governance.
Efficiency and consistency are the reasons I advocate proper strategic authorities allied with meaningful local government that has the flexibility to freely associate with others to achieve the scale of collaboration that local people wish.