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Repeal of the Local Government Act 1972

Comment 24th July 2010

This statute was never a success and has been amended and altered to an almost unrecognisable version of the original document.If one examines the act today'you will find a byzantine complex of annotations and amendments.Since then a piecemeal succession of powers and responsibilties has been added to local government legislation, which has led in part to the low esteem felt by the general public towards many of the leaders and CEO's in local govt.

It introduced a tier of government which was extremely unpopular with the public at the time and has remained so eversince, namely the District Council.These bodies have struggled to win the affection of their electorate and in the most part failed to achieve even a modicum of approval. This is not the fault of the individuals running them, but the system that set them up.

The adoption of cabinet government has also led to disechantment within the ranks of the excluded Councillors whose only purpose has been reduced to rubber stamping of preordained decisions or to grandstand on minor matters. This has also led to poor performance amongst elected members within the 1st tier, which the Code Of Conduct has done little to reduce or contain.Many Councils are hampered by the vexatious compainant both within and outside the body concerned and my proposal for a new comprehensive settlement Act to improve the standing of local government would introduce a financial deposit to deter wasteful and unnecessary complaints within a new streamlined Code OF conduct.

Boroughs and Rural Districts were forced into a 'shot gun marriage' with often deep rooted suspicions of favouritism for political and parochial reasons being alleged by those who felt left out from a particular item of expenditure or patrimony.

The rise of the quango and so called unitary local authorities has led to a disorganised and confusing mix of local services available to a cynical and disbelieving public, however the nostrum of community action is likely to add to a lack of community cohesion in many cases as it will encourage ideologues to force their particular pet projects within a disempowered system.The way forward is not less or no local government but active and capable government confident of its place within society.At my own level the 1st tier of government, closest to the public is often in conflict and treated with contempt by struggling District Councils, concious of their failing reputation and is itself in need of reform.

My recommendation would enlarge the role of Town Councils with new clearly defined powers to take over local services and assets, currently run by District Councils or Unitaries under a new statute. Rural Parishes would have new light touch regulations under this act,but with the option of forming new rural services boards to in effect cluster joint services, which would be regulated in similar terms to the new Town or Borough Councils.

The services in question could be Housing, Parks and community spaces, toilets,parking enforcement and car parks even harbours and piers.Refuse collection and amenity recycling provision and local control of inshore fisheries are also a possible option.The list is not definitive and would no doubt be subject to alteration.The service providers could vary depending on how strong and effective community action is in any particular area and by negotiation with the restructured County/Metropolitan authorities who act strategically and in partnership with the 1st tier bodies.

The Strategic County and Metropolitan bodies should take over much of the quangocracy again under new clearly defined regulations within this new act.

The new act should be written in clearly defined terms and in an understandable form that meets the objectives of Parliament and is understood easily by practioners and the public, which is why I would suggest its is laid out in sections which deal with each layer of local government and not in the present format where one has to search in various places for the lawfulness of any action.

Where there are statutes that devolve powers on to an authority or restrict its actions in some way, they should be clearly referred to within the new act and their wording and meaning explained within the text.A layout similar to standing orders ora constitution might fulfil this objective.

The new act will replace not only the 1972 Local Govt Act, but other subsequent acts.This might also be a good opportunity to do the same with the various Allotment Acts.

The new act must of course conform to the Human Rights Act 1998.

In conclusion this proposal may be seen as special pleading from a minor section of government, but if one considers this carefully I am certain you will see much to commend a proposal that would set the pattern of local administration on a new course for many years to come, that will allow local communities and yes, community activists a full part in how their towns and villages can improve and develop in prosperity for all.

If you could see the damage wrought by the 1972 Act and a succession of disinterested governments to the South and South East Coastal Communities where I live, you would agree that something radical needs to be done.

Why does this matter?

The previous statement explains all too clearly why this repeal and restructuring is important, but as an aide memoir I will set down the salient points:

  • Local Government has been disempowered and used as an exercise in stealth taxation and government.
  • The growth of the quangocracy has led to a feeling of disengagement from democracy and community cohesion by key sections of the public, that mere alterations to the voting system will not restore.
  • The structure of local government is inconsistant and lacks a proper democratic mandate.
  • The general public do not clearly understand who does what in local government.
  • The District Council is a failed organisational concept.
  • 1st Tier Councils need a new deal and clearly defined set of powers, the 'power of well being' and 'Quality Parish Council' options are poor substitutes for a proper system of government at this level.
  • All local government needs a boost and properly defined objectives and the means to achieve them.
  • 'Easy Councils' and 'Cabinet government' are a menace and a delusion when dealing with the real issues at hand.
  • Many areas of the Country did not benefit from the so called boom years of the 1990's and 2000's and if local enterprise is to flourish within a community at ease with itself a good reliable form of local governance is a must.

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