It’s been a long time since we have had government in the UK that has been competent enough to look proactively at changing things for the better, if that change would itself compromise the desire of politicians to endlessly keep increasing their control.
For decades, since the seismic changes that accompanied the end of Empire and the onset of the Cold War age following the end of the Second World War, the incompetency of generation after generation of Westminster politicians has seen power hoovered up and removed from the hands of local people. However, rather than holding on to it themselves centrally, politicians have passed more and more of their responsibility onwards to an outside power called the EU which has successfully indoctrinated the political classes across an entire continent into thinking that the creation of a supranational state is the ultimate tool of localism.
SPOILER ALERT: It is not.
I have been a Eurosceptic since I was a teenager, but gained no pleasure from seeing the debate unfold in public and the damage that was done from the moment that David Cameron committed the UK to a Referendum on Leaving the EU. It was unexpectedly won by those who identified with the localised side of the argument rather than the nebulous way of thinking that big (and centralised) is always best for everyone.
Remainers often cited the inability of Leavers to tell them what benefits there would be to Leaving the EU as clear evidence that there was no question to answer and that the UK should Remain a Member. Yet they overlooked that they couldn’t give a plausible argument that it was in our collective interest to stay.
The argument for Leaving the EU that was never heard and which should have underpinned everything, is power should be kept as local to voters as possible. Then decision making is kept real, in touch with the issues and our local communities are always kept at the centre of what politicians do.
When people can access decision makers easily and see that they themselves have the power to influence the decisions that are important to them, they are much more likely to be and to remain engaged. They will be much less likely to be disenfranchised from a political system that in its current form today is seeking to remove the power that remains in local hands and move it further away into the hands of highly political regional mayors.
The genuine change or reset that is coming in the near future (rather than the one that some are falling into the conspiracists trap of believing has been created by deliberate design) will create a massive opportunity to restructure, reform and relaunch government and the public sector comprehensively across the UK. It will be the chance to get every kind of pubic service working as they should for us all.
The real opportunity for improvement in the way that decisions on public policy are made in the future will be the voluntary return of power to the lowest tier of government that it is possible to do so, thereby ensuring that genuinely local decisions are locally made.
By local, this means a real shakeup of Town & Parish, District & Borough and County Councils with the disbanding of so-called Unitary Authorities and the list of powers these lower tiers of Government have redirected to the lowest level possible.
The responsibilities lower tier authorities have now should be topped up by the return of everything that has a very localised impact. Power must be returned to the local government structure and directed away from Westminster where it has been sat and used without appropriate care and consideration for too long.
It is no longer acceptable that laws effecting the lives of everyday people locally that were created by bureaucrats in London (or Brussels), who have a one-size fits all mentality are made and then only interpreted by officers and rubber stamped by councillors – who often believe they have no other choice – even though it is the will and needs of voters that they are there to respect.
The contrary argument is a good one. That there simply isn’t the funding available for these lower tiers of Government to exist and function now as they once did.
Yet the economic argument is now a hollow one as the technology that we have available dictates that very local authorities no longer have the need to retain the massive administrative or executive functions that they once did.
Whilst cost cutting means that pooling technical delivery services such as environmental health services or bin collections make sound economic sense, there is absolutely no reason that decision making has to be run or modelled in the same way.
That is before you cross the Rubicon and tackle the question of the what the financial impact of the local Government Pension Scheme on local Council Budgets involves and the savings and therefore money it would provide for services to be resumed that have been stopped today.
If we have a Westminster government that treats the whole of the Electorate as the adults that we are, it stands to reason that the same government must also treat the politicians within the localised tiers of government as adults too.
The additional powers that local Councils would have right down at neighbourhood and village level would immediately see people and more suitable candidates for elections becoming reengaged.
The real change that must come to make the difference at local level (at the very least) is the removal of political parties from the electoral process and action taken to prevent outside influence and money from holding sway.
It is not only possible and practical for independent candidates to run their own election campaigns, but would also be a highly democratic step to require that those seeking election to Councils of any kind are able to communicate and connect with the electorate during a campaign without the support of a national brand.
The current approach only ensures that we have too many people representing themselves and the interests of ‘their people’ instead of us all throughout government at every level.
We must take the coming opportunity to work to elect the right people to public representative offices of every kind and support this process by removing all of the tools that make it easy to place power in the wrong hands with the massive cost to us all that then involves.