We can be forgiven for being a bit sceptical about Gordon Brown’s initiative to make local spending subject to local ballots.
The idea is welcome and it’s high time the people had a say over where their council tax is spent. Given the record of this government, however, we’re minded to think this will be a gimmick and little more.
At present 80% of local government revenue is provided by Whitehall. We have one of the most centralised systems of local government in the world – why else is there such a poor turnout in local elections?
For this to become a real change that can benefit taxpayers and give residents a greater say, these moves need to extend beyond small spending commitments on parks or local statues. We need councils to put their spending plans to the people, initiating a thorough debate on where taxpayers’ money should be spent. This, as well as fundamental reform of local government finance, will go a great way to restoring some trust in government. Without these necessary reforms the British people will stay away from the polls as local democracy continues to languish as a political myth.