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Local government powers

Comment 3rd July 2010

The general power of competence of local authorities should be curtailed so that further discretionary functions can only be adopted after a referendum of residents.

Over the past decade local authorities have become involved in all sorts of peripheral issues at the expense of the local taxpayer.   This involvement has brought no measurable benefits to local people and in some cases has increased the local authorities' intrusive powers over them.

When councils publish details of their spending on-line, they should make clear what is spent on:  a) legal responsibilities they have to peform;  b) functions they may carry out under national legislation;  and c) local discretionary functions they have adopted for their area.

Only in this way will the average citizen begin to understand the job of their local council and form a view of the additional functions and spending they would like for their area.   

Why does this matter?

The local ballot box is not an effective tool of accountablility today.   Read any local paper and there is gripe after gripe about what local councillors are doing.   Many of these are about local authorities expanding their role and influence as they see fit or as their professional advisers regard as "proper".  

It is important that the local public are a constant voice in the ear of locally elected politicians so that their actions are influenced by the true voice of public opinion as policies and actions evolve.

A brake on spending, a brake on superfluous powers and, particularly a brake on "big brother" tendencies of local councils is in the interests of us all.

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