Real recovery starts with local government

I’m sure that some of you may see my name and the title of this article and think: “There he is, banging on about local government yet again”. Guilty as charged, Your Honour. The reason for my ‘banging on’ again has been prompted by an article in today’s Guardian by one of its leader writers, entitled ‘Local Politics is cutting a path for Labour’. Being the Guardian, the answer would of course be Labour. Wouldn’t it? However, the writer’s sudden discovery that there IS political life outside the Westminster bubble is welcome. However, some of us have been well ahead of him down the road to Damascus and, having served as councillors for many years – in my case thirty – we know most of the pitfalls.

What I have discovered is that you can succeed in local government by dint of your personality rather than the colour of the rosette you wear. If Labour is waking up to the potential of local government, why isn’t the party that turned community politics into an art form?

The problem is that, once you get to a position where you can have an effect locally, you come up against the fact that local government is now so beholden to central government that your powers are severely curtailed. Clearly, this sector is crying out for and eminently capable of benefitting from more political and fiscal devolution. So, bring it on!

The writer, despite his new found enthusiasm for local government, still seems to view it as a stepping stone to higher things. After all that’s where Liberal/Tory Joseph Chamberlain and his sons in Birmingham and Labour politicians such as Clement Attlee and Herbert Morrison in London first cut their teeth before moving on to the national stage. Mind you, back then, local government meant something to local people, before successive Tory and Labour governments stripped it of most of its powers and relevance in people’s lives.

Why can’t success at local government level be an end in itself, especially if a Federal U.K. meant that most locally impacting decisions were taken and financed locally? One day, we might well be able to consider things other than COVID. If we ever do and if we can salvage something from the wreckage of our economy, we might want to revisit local government and give it more bite. That’s what I understand by ‘levelling up’.

The partial revival of Liberalism after the 1960s owed a great deal to the ‘pavement politics’ which produced a clutch of Liberal, later Lib Dem, councillors and many innovative Lib Dem run or influenced local councils as well as over 50 MPs. The problem was always going to be to transfer that comparative success onto the national stage. It died eventually largely on that broken ‘pledge’ and the decision to support Cameron’s Tories. However, I would continue to argue that it was fatally undermined after 1997 by the first Blair government’s reluctance to deliver a real reforming agenda to create a political structure fit for the 21st century, when it had the parliamentary majority to do so.

The first step in that thousand mile journey towards the rehabilitation of local government, certainly in England, perhaps less so in the other UK nations – to become the force it once was – has got to be the transfer of powers from the centre, and the willingness on the part of national government to allow local government to go its own way, which includes the ability to get it wrong. We need to trust local people and not buy the idea that all this can be achieved by a single person imposed on a structure rather than by a democratically responsible council.

A restructured, fiscally responsible, local government within the framework of a Federal UK could offer more than just the Labour Party the opportunity of making a comeback. If Labour is waking up to the potential of local government, why isn’t the party that turned community politics into an art form?

* John Marriott is a former Liberal Democrat councillor from Lincolnshire.

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  • Good stuff from John Marriott. It mirrors my own response to the Guardian piece. Actually part of the “transfer” problem is simple visibility. Few voters have heard of the Liberal Democrats in Parliament and most of the national press like to keep it that way. Local Lib Dem Councillors whatever their strengths or weaknesses, have an easier task in making use of more “neutral” local media, which the Guardian columnist commended to the Labour Party!

  • I largely agree with John Marriott 🙂 !

    It has to be said though that actually with the regional mayors, probably local government is a greater force and more seriously considered in itself by the media than it has been for some time – Andy Burnham, Sadiq Khan, Andrew Street, Ben Houchen of Tees Valley – and indeed Ken and Boris before Sadiq.

    A relatively welcome attitude of the media is that they are now treating these as contests in themselves and not just as a large referendum on the national state of the parties. Perhaps particularly London – but then most national media is located there.

    As I have said before we should be mindful that most election results are pure fiction – as contexts local and national change. And local contests – however much they are or are not about local issues – are still fought in the national context.

    One of the slightly disappointing things is that we have underperformed in contests over larger geographical areas such as the London Mayor and West of England Mayoralty since the coalition — with the Greens beating us.

    We should though forget about elections (whether we win or lose) and elect ourselves “Mayor” “Councillor” “MP” activists for our area – and go about throwing those metaphorical stones to get things done – pavements mended, climate change solved or whatever – in the spirit of 1970s Liberal’s community politics – which was never about winning elections.

    And indeed it is worth remembering many of those that ultimately wield the greatest political influence are either never elected at all or not as an MP. After all as an MP you are just a cardboard cut-out to be wheeled in and out of the lobbies by the whips. And you can argue that of current Lib Dem politicians those that have and are wielding most political power are the likes of Keith House of Eastleigh Borough or others leading councils.

    And BTW we should be “marmite” nationally and locally.

  • John Marriott 23rd Jul '21 - 5:44pm

    Although I am not a fan of the cult of personality, having recognisable former national politicians like Andy Burnham and Sadiq Khan in charge of things at local level does direct a certain amount of attention to a particular area. The problem that both gentlemen have encountered, as Labour Mayors under a Tory government, is just how limited their room for manoeuvre actually is. It’s interesting to see how Tory regional Mayors seem to sing small. Perhaps it would be different if the party in power at Westminster were different.

    But there we have it. It all depends on central government largesse. What local government needs is the ability to make its own decisions in a clearly defined set of areas and to have the ability to generate the funds needed to make things happen. Of course, my article omitted to mention something equally important as far as England is concerned, namely Regional Government.

    As I have written many times, English local government needs to copy local government in the other three nations in the U.K. That means Unitary Councils instead of District and County Councils, together with Town/Parish Councils with the chance of acquiring enhanced powers. That would be for me the first step on that journey, whose distance might not be as long as I first predicted, if the goodwill is there.

  • Geoff Reid 23rd Jul ’21 – 4:22pm:
    Few voters have heard of the Liberal Democrats in Parliament…

    All too many have heard and not forgotten as Norman Lamb discovered when campaigning in his former North Norfolk constituency…

    …it was so distressing coming across household after household of people who had backed me loyally through 18, 20, 25 years turning against us and just saying “I can’t vote for you this time. I just fundamentally disagree with what your party stands for on Brexit.”

    32:02, ’Brexit and the Liberal Democrats, with Norman Lamb.’ [July 2020]:

  • David Rogers 24th Jul '21 - 8:26am

    Not having bought a copy of The Guardian for decades, I was unaware of the article which prompted John Marriott’s piece!! Nevertheless, as someone who had been (until retirement in 2013) a councillor for 36 years, I strongly agree with his advocacy of the potential of local government.
    He says Blair was reluctant to deliver real reform when he had the opportunity, which is true. But it’s also true that Thatcher’s Tories inflicted both stringent financial controls on councils, and removed functions – e.g. FE colleges. And even before that, Denis Healey’s encounter with the IMF led to significant cuts! So the enfeeblement of local government has many roots…
    On another point, several of those who have already commented have done so in the context of city and regional mayors, a relatively recent innovation. Whilst I agree that these have a higher profile, and may have a useful function, for those of us in non-metropolitan England the Town or Parish Council can have a real impact if they choose to act boldly. There are also excellent Borough or District Councils, as per the example of Eastleigh already mentioned, and some County Councils also continue to innovate despite every hurdle imposed by central government.
    Thus we can argue about structure until the cows come home, but as ever it is local leadership which can have the biggest impact. Back to what I understand as John Marriott’s central point: political and fiscal devolution is the best route to ‘levelling up’.

  • John Marriott 24th Jul '21 - 9:17am

    @David Rogers
    Your final sentence is a perfect summation of what I wrote.

    Yes, David, there are some excellent District Councils. The one on which I served for 18 years was a front runner in promoting green policies (thanks in no small measure to our small Lib Dem Group). However, I am a firm believer in the need to streamline local government by avoiding duplication and confusion. Many areas in England are already served by Unitary Councils, that have proved to be more cost effective than the old District/County system.

    Going ‘unitary’ in Lincolnshire, where I have lived for the past 44 years, would not be that straightforward. One unitary for the whole of the county would be too large and remote. We need two or three. Then, what do you do with the City of Lincoln? A Borough before 1973, now the equivalent of a District Council, it has no Parish Councils, it is really too small in terms of population to be a Unitary Council in its own right. It is therefore a prime target for the offer of enhanced powers as I outlined in my article.

  • Peter Martin 24th Jul '21 - 9:38am

    “Why can’t success at local government level be an end in itself, especially if a Federal U.K. meant that most locally impacting decisions were taken and financed locally?”

    No-one would deny the importance of local government. However, neither should anyone want to deny the importance of the Federal central government, should we, in the UK, ever adopt a Federal system, or the continued importance of the Westminster government should we not.

    There are plenty of countries around the world with a Federal government. The USA, Canada, and Australia are three examples which spring to mind. We probably know the names of the leaders of the Federal Governments but would be hard pressed to name any of the leaders of the individual states beneath them.

    For example, the Prime Minister of Australia is Scott Morrison who leads a Liberal government at Federal level. The Premier of the State of Victoria is Daniel Andrews who leads a Labour government at State level. Has anyone heard of him? The Premier of the State of NSW is Gladys Berejiklian who is another Liberal. I’ve just looked up her name and tbh I’ve never heard of her previously.

    So, who has the most influence in these two States. It has to be Scott Morrison. The rates of unemployment, levels of health care and quality of education are comparable in both. NSW is doing less well in the battle against Covid at the moment, but if you look at the Aussie press the blame is being heaped on Scott Morrison. He’s the one who is calling the shots, nationally, on the handling of the Covid epidemic.

    It’s always been like this. Changes in Aussie society, when they have occurred, have always been implemented at Federal level. This is not surprising. The Federal government can spend in Aussie dollars of their own issue. The State governments cannot.

    Queensland has traditionally always been more conservative than NSW. I’ve lived and worked in both states. The only real difference that I noticed were the level of speeding fines which were higher in NSW!

  • The USA has three broad levels of government at Federal, State and local Level with Federal spending accounting for about 64% of the total and State and local spending about 18% each. Of the 36% of state and local spending. about 30% is raised from local taxes and 6% from federal loans or grants. There is no Federal VAT or stamp duty. Sales and property taxes including stamp duties are collected directly by states and some local jurisdictions as well as local income taxes. The Education system is funded by states. States also pay the Medicare premiums for low-income older adults and people with disabilities and a portion of medicaid premiums. Education, healthcare and Pensions are the main areas of state spending. States conduct elections, establish local governments, maintain police forces and local militias or state defense forces. State governments issue marriage licenses and set the terms for divorce, issue driver’s licenses and car registrations. They decide statewide speed limits and inspection requirements for cars.
    US States can and do run budget deficits when approved by State legislatures State balanced budget requirements generally exclude pension fund deficits and capital spending. State capital expenditure, mainly for land, highways, and buildings, is largely financed by debt. Actuaries assess pension deficits based on estimated future investment returns. If interest rates continue at very low level, big city funds like Chicago and Los Angeles will not be in a position to meet commitments without big hikes in taxes and/or pension deductions.
    Much of these issues, if not all, will be familiar to local authorities across the UK.

  • Peter Martin 24th Jul '21 - 3:06pm

    @ Joe

    “Federal spending accounting for about 64% of the total and State and local spending about 18% each. Of the 36% of state and local spending. about 30% is raised from local taxes and 6% from federal loans or grants.”

    Thank you for this detail. These figures do show that the Federal Govt is the big player in the USA by virtue of its spending power. By all means have a US style Federal system but Lib Dems shouldn’t think that this would ever devolve quite as much taxation spending power to local level as they might wish.

    Income tax in the USA is largely a Federal tax, it is the same in Australia and so it would be in the UK too.

    I would be interested to know if ultra pro devolution Lib Dems can identify just one country in the world which has a system of government which they would like to emulate.

  • The Swiss seem to be able to operate a federal system well enough. As in the United States, taxes are levied at both state and federal levels – which sees large differences in income tax paid in different parts of the country. Depending on what Canton you live in you can pay an additional communal tax ranging from 25 per cent of federal tax (Genthod) or at the highest end 51 per cent (in Chancy and Avully).
    Canada’s Federal System of Government is well eatablished. In Canada, every individual needs to pay provincial or territorial income tax in addition to the federal income tax. The laws and policies for these taxes are developed by the provincial governments. The federal government collects the provincial tax for all provinces. So, the taxpayer makes one combined payment. The federal government then sends the received amount to the provincial government. The exception to this rule is Quebec, which has an independent tax system that requires separate filing and payment. Quebec also has its own sales tax. Two types of taxes are applied on all goods and services in Quebec, namely the Federal GST (Goods and Services Tax) at 5% and PST (Provincial Sales Tax) at 9.975%, bringing the total tax rate to 14.975%. Moreover, a local lodging tax of 3.00% per unit per night is also added on top of the GST and PST.

  • John Marriott 25th Jul '21 - 9:58am

    Joe Bourke’s reference to the Canadian Tax system reminds me of the three years my wife and I spent working in Alberta back in the early 1970s. Calculating your tax rebate, which most Canadians seemed to get, was easy. You used to pay both Federal and Provincial tax as you earned and then received two statements from the tax authorities in Alberta, one showing on each, from memory, what you had paid and what you were supposed to have paid. You took B from A and got C, which, once applied for, usually returned as a cheque in the form of a rebate.

    For those for whom this might have proved more tricky, local accountants used to set up stalls in shopping malls to offer their services for a small fee – quite a nice little earner. What this has got to do with my original article is anyone’s guess. However, I’m glad that I have offered the likes of Messrs Bourke and Martin the opportunity to display their superior knowledge of all things fiscal and, in the latter’s case, Australian as well. What they think about the merits or otherwise of a federal system of government for the U.K. is anybody’s guess 😀😀!

  • John Marriott 25th Jul '21 - 10:02am

    @Peter Martin
    My answer to your question is “The Federal Republic of Germany”. I’d even go as far as accepting a President; but I know that this cherry on the cake is unlikely to happen.

  • John Marriott,

    you write above
    “…this sector is crying out for and eminently capable of benefitting from more political and fiscal devolution…Why can’t success at local government level be an end in itself, especially if a Federal U.K. meant that most locally impacting decisions were taken and financed locally?…A restructured, fiscally responsible, local government within the framework of a Federal UK could offer more than just the Labour Party the opportunity of making a comeback.”
    Meaningful fiscal devolution for the nations of the UK ultimately means full control over local taxation, Within England this relates primarily to control and full retention of business rates and council tax supplemented by a Barnet type equalisation formula for central government grants. LibDem policy would see business rates replaced with a commercial land levy and hopefully council tax and stamp duty land tax replaced with a proportional property tax. Central grants would address per capita equalisation.
    Germany assigns taxes to states based, based on the number of residents; so income tax revenue belongs to the state in which the resident lives and corporation tax revenue belongs to the state in which the taxable economic performance arises. An exception to this rule is a state’s share of value added tax revenue; up to a quarter of a state’s tax revenue can be assigned to especially weak states in advance. States entitled to payment adjustments now receive 95% of the average of all states’ revenue. This has been especially important in integrating the weaker former east German states.

  • John Marriott 25th Jul '21 - 3:26pm

    @Joe Bourke
    It’s nice, of course, to be told how things work elsewhere; but are you in favour of a federal U.K. and more power to local government or not? Or can’t you make up your mind?

  • John Marriott,

    I have posted my thoughts in a previous article
    Michael Meadcroft’s comment in that thread encapsulates my views:
    “I welcome this thread! We need to campaign for a reversal of the seventy year trend towards centralisation of everything.
    Local democracy has been killed of bit by bit by every government – of both colours – since 1948. In that year Leeds City Council – and similar county boroughs – were responsible for gas, electricity, water, transport, local hospital, most social security, all schools, all further education, some higher education, police, ambulance and the fire service – all of which in whole or in part have been taken away. The abolition in 1986 of the Metropolitian County Councils, along with the Greater London Council, replaced a single directly elected body with seven appointed or indirectly elected bodies.

    The current situation is even worse in that even where the local authority has responsibility it does not have a free hand to raise the funds to carry it out. Look, for instance, at the situation regarding social care where the central government determines how much local authorities are allowed to spend

    I think the issue of resources and funding is more important than the precise structure of devolved authorities. I do think the constituent nations of the UK need to have tax raising powers devolved to them and the major regions of the UK the authority to level precepts as required in addition to the aforementioned equalisation arrangements for poorer regions of the UK.

  • John Marriott,

    as to how things work elsewhere, Winston Churchill in a 1912 speech in Dundee discussed the issue of a Federal UK in these terms
    “I am not in the least disturbed by the prospect of seeing erected in this country ten or twelve separate legislative bodies for the discharging of the functions entrusted to them by the Imperial Parliament. The United States conducts its business through a great number of Parliaments, and Germany has not merely Parliaments and States gathered and grouped together within the German Empire, but has separate kingdoms and principalities and armies woven together in a strong federation.
    Canada, South Africa and Australia have found this federal system the only way in which to reconcile the general interests of an organised State with the special and particular development of each proper part and portion of it.
    The creation in the United Kingdom of a federal system of Government would be an immense task, but it would be a task attended by proportionate advantages. Each part would be better looked after, and more actively developed. All sorts of able men who now have no share in Government would find a new and fertile field of responsible activity in the service cf their local or national Government. Our public life would become richer, our administration more sympathetic and more searching.
    The central Parliament would be relieved of its vast and oppressive burden, and would have more leisure to devote to the great interests of foreign and colonial policy, which now receive less attention than they require. It would be continually strengthened by the new element of men, who would not be mere politicians or orators, but men who had made their mark as Ministers and administrators in their own country or own province. And it would be only another bold step onward from such a system as I have described to open the way to that closer union with the great Dominions beyond the seas which must be achieved if the greatness of Great Britain is to endure.”

  • John Marriott 25th Jul '21 - 6:33pm

    @Joe Bourke
    I guess all that means you are agreeing with me. Great!

  • Peter Martin 25th Jul '21 - 6:58pm

    @ John Marriott,

    Does the “recovery” in the title mean a recovery of LibDem fortunes or a recovery in the UK economy?

    If the former, then Sarah Green has shown very effectively how running an election campaign as if it were for the election of a local government official can be successful. ie Forget the politics of Brexit, the UBI, poverty in the community, the need for more housing etc. Concentrate, instead, on flooding in underpasses and the condition of our trout streams. I’m sure it would work just as well for actual local government elections too. So you may well have a point.

    If it is the condition of the economy, it has about the relative spending power of central and local govt. If local government has only a small budget it can only have a small effect. So you’ll need to explain how you propose to increase it. Just copying the German system won’t necessarily produce the same results. It’s unlikely, at least IMO, that the UK will start to generate an extra couple of hundreds of billions in export revenues any time soon. Even if we did depose the monarch and had a president instead!

  • Peter Martin 25th Jul '21 - 7:11pm

    @ John Marriott,

    “I guess all that means you are agreeing with me. Great!”

    He could be. Your “guess” is as good as mine when it comes to deciphering what Joe is really trying to say. Or maybe trying to not say!

  • John,

    the comments mean what they say “I think the issue of resources and funding is more important than the precise structure of devolved authorities.”
    The Devolution APPG has published a report on the the role of national government in making a success of devolution in England. I would be in agreement with its recommendations
    “COVID-19 Recovery
    It will not be possible to deliver economic recovery, levelling-up, improved health outcomes and increased resilience without much greater devolution of powers and funding.
    • We must move towards a localist settlement that gives councils the powers and resources to drive green and inclusive growth that meets the needs of their communities.
    • The Government should provide opportunities to move away from the traditional drivers of departmental spending and inefficient and expensive competitive bidding processes towards a degree of fiscal decentralisation in line with some of the world’s most productive economies. This should include consideration of new tax setting powers for local government, as the current local government tax base is already too restricted and has been further impacted by COVID-19. Fiscal devolution is not a replacement for central government funding and redistribution through central grants and public spending must continue.
    • Councils should take the lead in designing and delivering locally integrated employment and skills offers. Government should support this approach and fund suitable pilots, such as trialling the LGA’s Work Local model.
    • Reform of Integrated Care Systems offers the opportunity to make effective health devolution a reality and for local authorities to take greater power over commissioning.”

  • John Marriott 26th Jul '21 - 8:46am

    @Joe Bourke
    BUT before anyone tries to deliver the wonderful things you suggest, wouldn’t it be a good idea to get a better structure in place for that delivery to take place?

    That means, for me, as far as England is concerned, three things need to be done :1 Finish the job started under Banham in 1992 of abolishing the remaining English County and District Councils and establish in their place Unitary Councils as first envisaged in the 1969 Redcliffe Maud Report on Local Government 2 Make a serious attempt to reform local government finance in England, which is long overdue 3 Then set up a commission to look at creating regional assemblies in England BEFORE any major powers are devolved away from central government.

  • John,

    I defer to your superior knowledge with respect to creating regional assemblies in England. Churchill more than a century ago opined:
    “… they would have to face the task of dividing England into several great self-governing areas. Some of these areas could be readily discerned. There was, for instance, the great Lancashire area, with a great mass of people, all with very similar interests and very much the same kind of conditions of life, with rather the same kind of view on educational questions and local politics. Then there was Yorkshire, about as large, and perhaps larger. In Yorkshire there was a different point of view to Lancashire, but still a point of view which it was very desirable should receive a real and sustained expression in the political life of this country. Then there were the Midlands, and there was London. They had already the London County Council, to which it would be quite easy to add additional power.
    Here, at any rate, would be four great areas in England which might well have a conscious political entity, an effective political machinery, bestowed upon them.
    But there were other parts of England which it was not nearly so easy to deal with. The questions which were raised by the proposal of a federal system in England were very difficult, but they were not insoluble. He was certain that if a spirit of goodwill and earnest desire to reach a solution were prevalent, there would be no difficulty in setting up a thoroughly workable federal system throughout the country.”
    Middlesex was incorporated into Greater London in 1965 but continued as a postal county until 1996. Although not strictly necessary, those of us of a certain age continue to include the county in our address along with the new postcodes. It takes a while for allegiances to county identities to die out. I don’t think Middlesex county cricket club will be changing its name any time soon. The Greater London cricket league is actually based in the county of Essex.

  • John Marriott 26th Jul '21 - 12:09pm

    @Joe Bourke
    What’s in a name? Where exactly is Wessex today, for example? If pushed I could slice England up into regions. It wouldn’t quite be as insensitive or as arbitrary as what Messrs Sykes and Picot did to the old Ottoman Empire back in 1916; but I bet there would still be a few objections!

    What we are talking about are administrative areas with a democratic mandate not unlike the purely administrative ‘Regierungsbezirke’ in the areas of Germany formerly under British military control after WW2 but clearly on a larger geographic and demographic scale.

    Your reference earlier to the Churchill/Curzon debate of 1912 which had escaped me shows why Churchill had more liberal about him than he cared to admit. Whether he ‘ratted’ twice on his political affiliation as he famously observed might in fact be questioned. For my money he was ahead of his time!

  • @John Marriott
    Re: Joe Bourke – The Devolution APPG report.
    BUT before anyone tries to deliver the wonderful things you suggest, wouldn’t it be a good idea to get a better structure in place for that delivery to take place?

    No, that’s a perfect excuse to do nothing – the “traditional english way”.
    It is clear CoViD and lockdown have changed and will continue to change the economic landscape, driving up the importance of local facilities and economic support. Plus we have the stress caused by Brexit that Peter Martin alludes to “It’s unlikely, at least IMO, that the UK will start to generate an extra couple of hundreds of billions in export revenues any time soon.”
    So I would use the need for a rapid and locally relevant investment and action to pressurise the government into getting monies flowing etc. The government and local government will find the limitations of the current situation and thus create a real driver for change.

    Basically, like business, government (both local and central) has to get more agile. ‘In Search of Excellence’ was published in 1982, yet many still don’t understand the Ready, Fire, Aim mindset….

  • John Marriott 27th Jul '21 - 4:18pm

    Trying to deliver with our present over complicated emasculated local government structure is like trying to break the land speed record using a Morris Minor. (I’ve nothing against the old Moggie – I even learned to drive in one – but we need horses for courses.) if we don’t reform the structure we shall just be throwing good money after bad – a bit like the NHS actually.

  • @John Marriott – Whilst I agree the current system is not really fit for purpose, it does sort of work and thus government (particularly a Conservative government) with other pressing matters, will tend to leave it as is… hence why we actually need to force the issue and break things.

    re: Morris Minor, I had some lessons in my grand father’s Morris Traveller (no synco-mesh).

  • John Marriott 28th Jul '21 - 8:24am

    “Sort of”:isn’t good enough for me! The Morris Minor I drove had no syncRo-mesh on first gear, so you needed to be standing still to engage it. I never did drive a car with à so called ‘crash’ gearbox. I’m reliably informed that it could be quite fun!

    To continue the car analogy, perhaps there is too much ‘internal combustion’ in the present system. We might wish to smooth things out by going electric (less moving parts, for one thing, and no nasty emissions).

  • @John – In one respect the electric car analogue is good: there are electric cars on the roads now, yet we don’t have a charging infrastructure in place (nor the necessary electricity generation and supply infrastructure).
    So perhaps what is necessary is to “hold the government to account” over the investment in locales outside of greater London, and also to hold them to account for not reforming the system (along the lines you would like) that facilitate the efficient and efficacious distribution of such investments…

  • John Marriott 29th Jul '21 - 7:30am

    For “we don’t have a charging infrastructure in place” read “we don’t have an effective and efficient administrative structure in place”. Therefore, we need to get that right before we launch any devolution package. So get rid of the remaining English County and District Councils for starters.

  • Helen Dudden 29th Jul '21 - 11:59am

    I believe local councils should be able to have some influence over local affairs like housing and planning.
    In Bath, the situation in student housing now overtakes the need for local people. It’s become horrendous as the building of student housing continues.
    The city is now filled with hotels and students. Having lived in the Bath area for many year’s, it most certainly has lost something.
    This government’s plans have over taken the individuals rights in society and literally used capitalism as it’s only goal.

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