Tuesday, 10 February 2009

A Local Story

A story close to home comes from the Daily Telegraph and which demonstrates the ludicrous situation in which we, as a country, now live.

We have, this year, county council elections due to be held! Not only are the present administration going to be held to account over what is locally known as the Cogges Link Road, but it seems we now have another issue on which to campaign.

On the latter, to demonstrate how local democracy works, I quote from a letter sent to the Witney Gazette - our local paper:


Since 1997, 28 new Acts of Parliament have been passed imposing specific duties on District Councils and there are also 200 National Performance Indicators to monitor local authorities. 

Local Area Agreements (LAAs), which are in the process of being replaced by second generation LAAs (LAA2s), are another means of ' de facto' centralized control. Whitehall also constrains local government autonomy through financial controls, with 75% of the money spent locally coming from the Treasury. Unelected and unaccountable Regional Offices and Agencies are yet another cause for lack of local democracy. Bear in mind  also that councillors, if not Cabinet members, are effectively dis-enfranchised and have virtually no say in the decision making process.

The present framework leaves little for local people to decide. Local government has become, in many respects, little more than a local administration tasked with implementing central government policies in a prescriptive manner. No different really to that of Parliament, viz-a-viz the European Union.

David Harvey* attempts to justify the fact that because voters return a Conservative candidate for the Town Council the vast majority must therefore support the Cogges Link Road (CLR). With turnout at local elections only around, on average, 30/35 percent it does, I believe, leave his justification a tad 'unfounded'. In an effort to ascertain just how much councillors represent their electorates views; especially in relation to those members of the Lowlands Planning Sub Committee, the minutes of whose last meeting stated: "Notes that alternative schemes, including Shores Green, do have some advantages over Cogges Link Road, but requests that the County Council ensures that the overall balance of advantage……rests with Cogges Link Road." (my emphasis); on 23rd December I e-mailed every WODC councillor enquiring whether they held surgeries and if so, how many of their constituents had raised the matter of CLR. Only Councillors Brenda Smith, Warwick Robinson and Michael Breakell replied, of whom only Brenda Smith had any form of surgery.

Local democracy? Where?

* A Town & District Councillor.

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