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The death of local government in England?

Should local government in England be reformed? (select as many as you like)

  • Regional governments (e.g. North, Midlands etc.) with Scotland-style powers

    Votes: 35 55.6%
  • More funding and power to local councils

    Votes: 33 52.4%
  • More funding and power to elected mayors and combined authorities

    Votes: 13 20.6%
  • No change

    Votes: 3 4.8%
  • Reduce local power

    Votes: 8 12.7%

  • Total voters
    63
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LatymerKing

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Local government in England seems to be on its way out in favour of an obsessively over-centralised Westminster government. Counties and districts being replaced with unitary authorities; combined authorities and elected mayor with limited power and even more limited funding (so are basically irrelevant), council functions being centralised, councils being overruled.

And of course, the classic stitch-up: cut council funding then blame them for the cuts that follow (which also prevents councils from fulfilling local wishes).

Scotland and Wales seem to thrive more under devolution than the provinces of England.

Do you think local gov't needs to be reformed? Vote in the poll, and discuss your thoughts. :smile:
 
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DerekC

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The centralisation of power has been going on since the Thatcher era. Local government has been weakened mainly by moving powers to Westminster. The biggest example is probably police, which used to be under the local authority but is now mostly under control of party apparatchiks. Also through privatisation of such things as water and sewerage, which used to be a local government responsibility in the majority of areas, and through the cuts to funding. I certainly think that process should be reversed. Regional governments need some careful thought. What sort of structure are we talking about?
 

LatymerKing

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The centralisation of power has been going on since the Thatcher era. Local government has been weakened mainly by moving powers to Westminster. The biggest example is probably police, which used to be under the local authority but is now mostly under control of party apparatchiks. Also through privatisation of such things as water and sewerage, which used to be a local government responsibility in the majority of areas, and through the cuts to funding. I certainly think that process should be reversed. Regional governments need some careful thought. What sort of structure are we talking about?
Given the equivalence of the regional government to Wales/Scotland, they'd need to be quite big and evenly populated (particularly if they take different approaches to tax and regulations). 4 would be sensible, using existing boundaries: London&Anglia, Midlands, North, and South (all fairly equal in population).
 

DerekC

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As well as the question of how many regions, there is also the number of layers to decide on. In our area we already have four (Westminster>County>District>Parish) - are we talking about another? I think it makes a difference. Of course many (most?) areas have unitary authorities. Why does London go with Anglia particularly? How big would the London region be? Are four regions enough? To me a "South" regional government covering Margate to Lands End would be difficult. Where would you put the capital? Brighton? Bristol? Reading? - there is a big difference between the South West and the London-dominated South East, and I am sure there are equal concerns in the North.
 

yorksrob

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I believe that Yorkshire should be devolved with a regional government.
 

REVUpminster

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Regional government sounds good but any devolved system relies on the tax base and tax raising powers of London and the South east. Imagine a Barnet formulae for all these regions. It already causes resentment now from those that pay and those that receive.

United States and the EU have tensions between rich and poor states.
 

yorksrob

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There should be a Barnet formula for Yorkshire. Is that not what "levelling up" is all about ?
 

TravelDream

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My personal belief is that local government in the UK is far too weak. Power has been certalised more and more in London for decade after decade, but really took off under Thathcer and continued under New Labour.

My preference would be unitary councils with dramatically beefed up powers. They are also responsible for far too little of the revenue they need to operate.
Local authorities in the US can set their own sales tax/ VAT rate so why can't British councils do the same? There's always going to have to be some sort of central funding though with a formula to support the poorest areas.
I do like the idea of city regions, though they have been implemented in a very poor way as is typical in British local government.

Mind you, I am not too sure most Brits agree with me. Some people online were/ are incredibly angry Scotland and Wales had different regulations to England. Whereas I'd be pretty happy for each council to set their own restrictions most appropriate to local needs and wants.
 

LatymerKing

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As well as the question of how many regions, there is also the number of layers to decide on. In our area we already have four (Westminster>County>District>Parish) - are we talking about another? I think it makes a difference.
Parish is irrelevant, the direction of travel seems to be unitary authorities anyway. It's worth noting that other countries tend to have more layers, all more powerful than our councils.
Why does London go with Anglia particularly?
I tried to get four provinces with similar populations, using existing county boundaries. It will always be a compromise, unfortunately. I didn't want London on its own as it would have too much clout.
Are four regions enough?
Given the law making ability that they would have, it would become too complicated to keep track of what laws/regulations/taxes apply where if there were too many regions.
To me a "South" regional government covering Margate to Lands End would be difficult. Where would you put the capital? Brighton? Bristol? Reading? - there is a big difference between the South West and the London-dominated South East, and I am sure there are equal concerns in the North.
Regional headquarters would also be a good option, so that one city doesn't dominate a region. A small region with a small tax take and limited population size would be less effective imo.
I believe that Yorkshire should be devolved with a regional government.
This would fragment the north too much I think. Although it would be interesting to hear if you have different ideas whilst keeping the number of provinces small, even in population, with sensible borders which comply with existing counties.
Regional government sounds good but any devolved system relies on the tax base and tax raising powers of London and the South east. Imagine a Barnet formulae for all these regions. It already causes resentment now from those that pay and those that receive.

United States and the EU have tensions between rich and poor states.
Let's calll it redressing past wrongs - London has dominated for far too long and adequately funding all regions will improve the economy outside of London.

My personal belief is that local government in the UK is far too weak. Power has been certalised more and more in London for decade after decade, but really took off under Thathcer and continued under New Labour.

My preference would be unitary councils with dramatically beefed up powers. They are also responsible for far too little of the revenue they need to operate.
Local authorities in the US can set their own sales tax/ VAT rate so why can't British councils do the same? There's always going to have to be some sort of central funding though with a formula to support the poorest areas.
I do like the idea of city regions, though they have been implemented in a very poor way as is typical in British local government.

Mind you, I am not too sure most Brits agree with me. Some people online were/ are incredibly angry Scotland and Wales had different regulations to England. Whereas I'd be pretty happy for each council to set their own restrictions most appropriate to local needs and wants.
I've always firmly believed in responsibility being given the the most local power feasible. I think defaulting to provincial governments having power unless it is essential for the central government to manage it is the best option.
 
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yorksrob

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Parish is irrelevant, the direction of travel seems to be unitary authorities anyway. It's worth noting that other countries tend to have more layers, all more powerful than our councils.

I tried to get four provinces with similar populations, using existing county boundaries. It will always be a compromise, unfortunately. I didn't want London on its own as it would have too much clout.

Given the law making ability that they would have, it would become too complicated to keep track of what laws/regulations/taxes apply where if there were too many regions.

Regional headquarters would also be a good option, so that one city doesn't dominate a region. A small region with a small tax take and limited population size would be less effective imo.

This would fragment the north too much I think. Although it would be interesting to hear if you have different ideas whilst keeping the number of provinces small, even in population, with sensible borders which comply with existing counties.

Let's calll it redressing past wrongs - London has dominated for far too long and adequately funding all regions will improve the economy outside of London.


I've always firmly believed in responsibility being given the the most local power feasible. I think defaulting to provincial governments having power unless it is essential for the central government to manage it is the best option.

Interestingly, the current vogue for devolution is to "city regions", so a devolved Yorkshire would be much larger than these, which are based around Sheffield, Leeds etc.
 

Hadders

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There really is no need for regional government.

I live in Stevenage and while the local council isn’t perfect I don’t want things like bin collection, schools, planning applications etc decided by distant politicians in Norwich.
 

LatymerKing

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Interestingly, the current vogue for devolution is to "city regions", so a devolved Yorkshire would be much larger than these, which are based around Sheffield, Leeds etc.
Have you seen the list of powers for the new West Yorkshire Mayor? Utterly powerless, and no money to back it up! Provincial governments would be national government in miniature, rather than beefed up county councils, with the money and power to match.
There really is no need for regional government.

I live in Stevenage and while the local council isn’t perfect I don’t want things like bin collection, schools, planning applications etc decided by distant politicians in Norwich.
Hadders, I'm afraid you've misunderstood. Regional government would not be taking powers from councils, it would be taking them from central government. So the decisions would be made closer to you!
 

HSTEd

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Ultimately local government is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

With the original creation of recognisable local government with the Municipal Corporations Act 1835, the fastest method the vast majority of the population had to move around was foot.
If they were lucky they might have access to the stagecoach, but travelling anywhere would take hours or days.

By the time the County Councils are created by the Local Government Act 1888, railways have significantly increased the speed of travel, but most people might live their entire lives very close to home.

In the modern era we now travel distances that people in those times could only dream of.
We have a hyper mobile society where people might travel more distance in a year than people previously did in a lifetime.
If not even a month for some commuters.

We have to expect a blurring out the country in this manner.

Indeed, if we were to build lots of high speed rail/maglev/whatever hypertech we end up with, we would expect the economic conglomeration around London to become coterminus with the entirity of England or even Great Britain.

At which point local government will really have ceased to have any real meaning.

The soon to commence depopulation of Scotland and Wales will only increase this effect.
 

yorksrob

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We really don't want London and its economic influence sprawling beyond the South East. It needs to be contained.
 

Hadders

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I'm afraid you've misunderstood. Regional government would not be taking powers from councils, it would be taking them from central government. So the decisions would be made closer to you!
So what sort of powers do you envisage central government giving up to the regions?
 

Hadders

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Everything that Scotland and Wales have, as a bare minimum?
There's no way central government is going to give up that sort of power (e.g. varying levels of income tax) If regional government happens it'll end up with powers being taken from existing local authorities rather than central government.
 

TravelDream

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There's no way central government is going to give up that sort of power (e.g. varying levels of income tax) If regional government happens it'll end up with powers being taken from existing local authorities rather than central government.

This has always been the big issue in this country. Central government is incredibly reticent to give up power so new tiers of government inevitably mean power moving away from people, not towards them.
 

GusB

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Regional government sounds good but any devolved system relies on the tax base and tax raising powers of London and the South east. Imagine a Barnet formulae for all these regions. It already causes resentment now from those that pay and those that receive.

United States and the EU have tensions between rich and poor states.

Why does it rely on the tax base and tax-raising powers of London and the South East? Regional government would hopefully have its own economic levers and be able to attract its own tax base. If that means de-centralising wealth and attracting jobs away from London and the South East, so be it. Is it not fair that the whole nation should be able to benefit from the wealth that is currently concentrated in such a small area?

I don't disagree that there is resentment. There's resentment because talented people get pulled away to places like London where wages appear to be so much higher and career opportunities better. I'm sure that a great deal of those people resent being pulled away from the communities that they grew up in, but remaining there severely limits their career prospects.

I'm guessing that you don't like the idea of regional government because it might just boost the prospects of those regions that aren't in the south east, thus forcing you to remove the great "we're sick of subsidising the rest of the nation" chip from your shoulder.
 

JamesT

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Why does it rely on the tax base and tax-raising powers of London and the South East? Regional government would hopefully have its own economic levers and be able to attract its own tax base. If that means de-centralising wealth and attracting jobs away from London and the South East, so be it. Is it not fair that the whole nation should be able to benefit from the wealth that is currently concentrated in such a small area?

I don't disagree that there is resentment. There's resentment because talented people get pulled away to places like London where wages appear to be so much higher and career opportunities better. I'm sure that a great deal of those people resent being pulled away from the communities that they grew up in, but remaining there severely limits their career prospects.

I'm guessing that you don't like the idea of regional government because it might just boost the prospects of those regions that aren't in the south east, thus forcing you to remove the great "we're sick of subsidising the rest of the nation" chip from your shoulder.

Generally the areas that need higher public spending are those where the population aren’t wealthy, so you’d struggle to extract higher local taxation to pay for the spending. Hence central government has to provide the redistribution. Understandably, if they’re responsible for the funding then they should also have a say in what it’s spent on, at which point what is the role of local government?

Although decentralisation and boosting the regions sounds good, is there actually a way to make it work? The major reason for the growth of London is the economic and other benefits of agglomeration. Governments have been relocating bits of departments out of London for decades, it doesn’t appear to have made much difference.

Talented people want to live and work in the same place as other talented people, designating a particular area won’t in itself make it more attractive. One of the differentiators of British culture is that far more of our students leave home to go to University compared to other countries around the world. Rather than being resented, I think it’s an expected part of life that people will move to other parts of the country. Putting up barriers by having differential taxation is unlikely to help.
 

HSTEd

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We really don't want London and its economic influence sprawling beyond the South East. It needs to be contained.
Why?

If London is the UK and the UK is London, everyone benefits
 

Butts

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It could be argued you get the sort of Local Government that you vote for ( or not as the case might be)

Have you seen the turnout in a lot of the Local Elections across not just England but the rest of the UK ?

Indifference seems to be the norm, indicating most people couldn't give a toss :E
 

REVUpminster

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If regional governments offered lower Corporation tax to attract business then we get the situation of Ireland undercutting other EU states and now being threatened with less money from the EU recovery fund. UK central government could do the same to regional governments. Also how would central government raise money for public services and the armed forces. The tax take in Devon and Cornwall is far lower than money received because of lower wages.
 

yorksrob

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Why?

If London is the UK and the UK is London, everyone benefits

Because it turns everywhere else into a suburb.

Ultimately the UK will benefit if the regions have more economic and cultural power in their own right.
 

LSWR Cavalier

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Germany has a lot of layers, 16 regional parliaments! More than 400 counties/cities! Seems to work quite well. The sizes/populations of the regions vary a lot, from 600k to 18m.
 

duncanp

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One problem with regional governments is that the people running it will tend to spend the money where the votes are, which tends to be in the big cities.

In Scotland, an friend who lives in Kilmarnock tells me that during the existence of Strathclyde Regional Council most of the tax money was spent in Glasgow, and pavements and potholes in the surrounding towns would be neglected.

When Strathclyde was broken up and Kilmarnock came under East Ayrshire, suddenly all the pavements and potholes were repaired much more quickly.

With regional government, you would need to have a system something like that for the Scottish parliament, so that the councillors elected are representative of the whole area, and you don't have a situation where one party is in power all the time.

There are no Conservative councillors in Liverpool or Manchester, and yet some people there vote Conservative.

Similarly in large swathes of Southern England, where some councils are always Conservative controlled.
 

Welly

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It could be argued you get the sort of Local Government that you vote for ( or not as the case might be)

Have you seen the turnout in a lot of the Local Elections across not just England but the rest of the UK ?

Indifference seems to be the norm, indicating most people couldn't give a toss :E
Only because local elections never seem to make any real difference - elected local council members seem unable to hold the unelected officers to account.
 

Spamcan81

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IMO local issues need local solutions so I'm in favour of more power being returned to local councils and hopefully with a more equitable method of funding than council tax.
 

Western Lord

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Have you seen the list of powers for the new West Yorkshire Mayor? Utterly powerless, and no money to back it up! Provincial governments would be national government in miniature, rather than beefed up county councils, with the money and power to match.

Hadders, I'm afraid you've misunderstood. Regional government would not be taking powers from councils, it would be taking them from central government. So the decisions would be made closer to you!
But Hadders, in Stevenage, said he didn't want things run from Norwich, which is much further away from Stevenage than London!
 

brad465

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For me a combination of regional Governments and decentralising power even further to allow people to have direct control over key issues at local level. This would be achieved through things like citizens' assemblies and participatory forums, which would replace the governing roles of councils and mayors and thus decide how taxes are spent locally and what gets approved based on what issues they know are of greatest interest to them, rather than 'elite' politicians who seem out of touch with who they're meant to represent.
 
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