Local government report poisoned chalice for Labour

29 Jun 00
A root-and-branch overhaul of Scottish local government is set to be triggered by the publication this week of the Kerley report on regenerating local democracy.

30 June 2000

The report recommends a significant cut in the number of councillors and council posts, an increase in pay and allowances for those who remain, and greater accountability of councillors and councils.

But its proposal that a new electoral system – the single transferable vote – be introduced for Scottish local government elections is likely to prove a poisoned chalice for Labour. Labour councillors are the most likely to lose out from such a reform, and the party is expected to resist it.

Richard Kerley, author of the report, said: 'The overarching purpose has been to consider the renewal of local democracy. Fewer than six in ten electors voted in the local elections in May 1999.'

Scotland's First Minister, Donald Dewar, is to take charge of a sub-committee to examine the report.

It recommends a minimum of 19 members for a council and a maximum of 53, and calls for councillors' pay to be increased to £12,000 and for Glasgow and Edinburgh council leaders to be paid in line with Holyrood MSPs.

But Kerley added: 'Being a councillor is principally about voluntary public service.We do not believe that remuneration is, or should be, a key factor in motivating people to take up public service.'

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities gave the report a cautious welcome. President Norman Murray said: 'This is about far more than what we pay our councillors or how we vote for them. This is about making local government more accessible.'


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