Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Local Government Finance

     There is a never-ending conflict between central government and local government.   Both claim to have a democratic mandate and both claim to know what is best for the people.   Local government wants to provide the relevant services for their locality and to prioritise them.   Central government wants to retain financial control and to ensure that national standards are met.   After all, 80% of local government finance is now provided by central government.   The bulk of the expenditure is on education, so take education out of the equation and local government could be self-financing, raising the money that it spends.   In such a scenario there is a strong case for as much power as possible to be transferred from central government to local government. In order most closely to meet the wishes of the people that power should be devolved to the lowest level of local government as possible.   Democratic accountability would then ensure that those responsible for raising the monies locally were also accountable for the way those monies were spent.
     As far as education is concerned the money central government spends could go directly to the schools and the expenditure in the schools controlled by elected governors.   The responsibility of the governors would be to meet national standards set by the government.   By these measures the aims and objectives of both local and national government could be reconciled and there aims and objects clearly delineated.

                Power should be devolved from central government and the higher levels of local government to the lowest practical local level.   Education should be financed by central government.   All the expenditure of local government should be financed out of taxes raised by local government subject to an adjustment for special needs financed by central government.

What do you think?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Voice of The Grass Roots

A musing on the death of the Tory Party ...

Written by Peter Bingle, Chairman, Bell Pottinger Public Affairs
Does the Tory Party still exist? Is it still the political voice of nice people living in the nicest parts of England and Wales or is it just a figment of our imagination?

I suspect that when Tory MPs return home to their constituencies on a Friday evening they wish it didn’t exist. Tory activists like Tory voters are not happy bunnies. They share the frustration increasingly being voiced by the righty-wing media. What has happened to the Tory Party? Where has it gone? Why is the coalition government not pursuing a Tory agenda?

Take Baroness Warsi who is supposed to be the Chairman of the Tory Party. In a disappearing act worthy of the great Harry Houdini she has quite simply vanished. Has she become shy? Has she got a very bad dose of tonsillitis? It is more than just counter-intuitive to have a Tory Party Chairman who is never seen or heard. I will buy lunch or dinner for the first person who can prove to me that Baroness Warsi still exists.

At a time of coalition government (and I remain a fan) it is all the more important that the Tory Party has a voice. Our values are important values. We believe in the family but embrace diversity. We believe in a small state and empowered citizens. We believe in strong defence and we support the police. We believe in low taxes and choice. I could go on …

There is part of me which believes that the PM and his key aides aren’t that bothered about the Tory Party. He is clearly a Whig and puts pragmatism before conviction or ideology. I am not even sure that he cares very much about the Tory Party and its quaint ways. I was brought up in Putney Conservative Association. The local branch structure. The formidable Women’s Committee. Executive Committee Meetings. Jumble Sales. Political Suppers. These are what make (or rather made) the Tory Party so special. Like Tony Blair I think that the PM doesn’t have much time for any of it.

When God created the world he spent a whole (coffee) morning creating a creature called ‘Tory Woman.’ There is nothing quite like them in the whole animal kingdom. Perhaps David Attenborough should do a series about a species that was created to organise coffee mornings, political suppers, Tory Balls and run committee rooms on polling days. I do not mock Tory Woman. Over the years I have grown very fond of them. I love them dearly. They must be despairing about what is happening to the party they have devoted their lives to serving.

If we aren’t careful the Tory Party will wither on the vine and then die. In many parts of the country it is already the case that Tory activists are, to quote W S Gilbert, in the autumn of their lives. There are far too few young activists. This situation will only get worse if there is not a cogent, populist and compelling Tory case being made to the public. We are witnessing the slow painful death of the Tory Party.

Why is the Tory case not being made? Does anybody really care? When will Baroness Warsi be replaced by somebody who actually exists? Is the Tory Party finished?