Council chief warns of threat from regional assemblies

19 Oct 00
A high-profile authority chief executive has warned that the advent of regional assemblies may lead to a dramatic down-sizing of local government.

20 October 2000

Rugby Borough Council's Diane Colley said new legislative bodies, combined with the transfer of responsibilities such as community safety and health improvement plans to borough and district councils, were making many people question the need for so many tiers of government.

Possible changes to education and social services currently being discussed further complicate the picture, she added.

'This is increasingly leading to a questioning of the need for both county councils and district councils in two-tier areas,' Colley told delegates at the Institute of Revenues, Rating and Valuation conference in Torquay on October 19. 'Residents aren't particularly impressed to hear that government in their area can come from any one of five tiers – parish, district, county, regional or national.'

She emphasised that she was not 'bashing' county councils but argued that each tier would have to justify its existence. She predicted that areas untouched by the previous local government review might find the issue being revisited sooner than they had expected. 'Watch this space,' she added.

Colley also highlighted the need for a concerted effort to convince the public that local government was still relevant to their lives and had the power to effect change.

'People from all walks of life praise local government for the way in which it handles situations and delivers services,' she said. 'But the public perception is often at odds with the reality. The headlines cry of fraud and corruption, political extremes and the things that go wrong.'

The best way to revive interest in local democracy was to do away with old-style party politics and campaign on issues rather than abstract principles. 'Voters will turn out in force if there is a hot topical issue around, where local candidates align themselves with a cause and promise to act if elected,' Colley told delegates.

'There are lessons there for all levels of government. Issues rather than party politics interest voters.'


Did you enjoy this article?