Monday, October 23, 2006

The decline of local democracy

Local democracy has been under attack from successive governments – both Conservative and Labour – for more than two decades now. It’s reached the point now where the chief function of many councils is to vote on which private company gets the contract to empty the bins.

And with no disrespect to friends of mine who do serve as councillors, it’s probably fair to say that the standard of local elected representatives is now not as high as it was in the past.

Result? Fewer than 50% of people are happy with their local authority, according to a government-commissioned survey due for publication today. Two-thirds of respondents said they did not believe they could influence local decisions, while only 21% said they were satisfied with the opportunities open to them to participate. Nearly half felt that their council did not do enough for people like them.

OK, local government just ain’t sexy. Most lefties would far rather spend their free time discussing prospects for the Venezuelan revolution. But delivery of local services is one of the most important aspects of life for working class people. And middle class people, for that matter.
Revitalising local democracy should be a priority demand of the thinking left.

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