01 March 2011

Tory/Lib Dem 'Localism' In Action.

Just working my way through the Green Alternative Budget for Brighton and Hove (the pdf can be downloaded here on the Jason KitKat website). This paragraph in particular exemplifies just how little local democracy is left after the diktats from Tory Central Office, it would make Stalin proud!!
"Freezing council tax releases a central government grant worth the same as a 2.5% tax increase for at least this year and the next. A tax increase of over 2.5% would be needed to make it worthwhile, yet the national government has said no council may raise tax beyond 3.5%."
So there you have it, the localism of the Tory Lib Dem government that gives such 'freedom' and 'democracy' to local government. Not only is local taxation severely restricted in this way, but little or no revenue can be raised from any other source either (unless you want to charge the elderly and vulnerable - car owners are protected - good to see where Tory priorities lie).

When you consider that around 60-70% of local funding (more for councils covering poorer areas) comes directly from central government anyway and that this grant is being cut by 27% over the next few years, you can see what 'hobsons choice' councils really have (and by the way 'back office' sharing and cuts would make little difference - less than 5% at most of the £83bn cuts needed nationally). It makes you wonder what is the point of having local government at all when so little power resides there. It is hardly surprising turnout struggles to make 35%. Still I shouldn't put ideas into Tory heads, abolish democracy and we can save millions they might just do it, they have done it to local government before.

As ever, Ken Livingstone talks sense (via liberal conspiracy) on how little power and choice local councils have.
"Are Councillors who make these cuts – Labour Councillors – complicit? Thirty years ago, Councillors who made cuts, as Thatcher pushed them down, arguably were complicit because there was an alternative – to increase the rates…the rating system itself was fairly re-distributive, with the richest homes paying very much more than the poorest.

It was crude, but the best strategy was to increase the rates to preserve services. Labour Councils had great debates about that, but largely that’s what they did. The worst of the cuts were blunted and that is why the Tories abolished the rates and took away the business rate and created first the poll tax and then the Council Tax, which is not redistributive, leaving Councillors with the choice [of saying] “do we cut services or do we bang up the Council Tax, which would actually hurt poor people more?”

There they [Labour Councillors] don’t have the choice that we had a generation ago for fighting those cuts. What is important is that those Councils have to carry their communities with them.

They have to engage the communities and their trade unions in how they manage the devastating cut in the grant that they’ve got and to do it in a way that preserves the most of our services and protects the most vulnerable. It will not be easy, it will not be pleasant, but you don’t have the option of walking away".

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