Tuesday 17 February 2009

We know where you live

Not a comment about our surveillance society, but a concern about the balance of local responsibility for policies and a standard minimum acceptable level of service depending on where you live.

Today's Today programme featured two contrasting issues:
The Tories are about to announce plans for more local democracy.
John Suchet went public on the problems of Alzheimers, noting that some local authorities provide more care than others. The postcode lottery.

I don't have answers, but there is a real problem in this balance. At the moment most local authority funding is national not local, hence the imposition of central control. People chafe because central targets do not always match local priorities. BUT if you don't have them then postcode lottery problems get worse: we do not have national standards of service where people expect them. And this is particularly concerning as so many authorities have one dominant political party so the prospect of voter-led change is small. (Hence the argument for Mayors, but that seems a very unfortunate road to go down as it will just encourage outsize egos. My other worry with Tory proposals is I don't see how they will change the funding arrangements, and without changing that nothing will really change.)

I suspect the answer is to more clearly identify areas where national standards are needed, and to remove most other regional/central prioritisations. Also, to encourage dissemination of powers to Parish/Town Councils. And lastly to not allow councillors to stand for more than two terms. But that sounds like hard work rather than a quick announcement.


Troy said...

I think the postcode lottery will always be with us. Think of the Wandsworth/Lambeth council tax extremes. With people moving on average every X years (5 to 8?) perhaps they should start to do more due diligence regarding council costs and council benefits. Or alternatively, just be young in England then retire to Scotland?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps if our government opened their eyes and began to realise that people do actually exist outside London.

CJ xx

Sarah said...

Local authority; so how do you govern locally, when the personalities attracted to the available posts are attracted to the power rather than a genuine motiation to do good?
The old councils were supposedly full of self-interested business people who drained resources; how does this change? Do we need a Council Police? though I hate the surveilance state, I can see its birth, thorough the discovery of all kinds of perversions of justice and abuse of power.
And I still don't want your big old smelly road, either. oh, unless it goes past your house, rather than mine, thanks.
By the way, I'm intersted to know your policy on the use of prisons and punishment, esp. young offenders.
Drop by, why don't you? Just click on the tree!

John Woodman said...

Sarah, I don't think all potential councillors are attarcted by power alone. I really think most want to make things better. But I am sure that the longer they stay, the more they change.

I think prison should work. But over-crowding means that there is minimal emphasis on rehabilitation. Also, a lack of focus on prevention and a mass of new laws means that punsihments often don't fit the crime. The trouble is that crime is a buisness with very low barriers to entry (ie its easy to slip into it) and very high barriers to exit (ie its easy to stay stuck in a cycle). The two need to be reveresed.