Fringe Box



Letter: Centralisation of Power Can Only Be Tackled By Constitutional Change

Published on: 6 Aug, 2023
Updated on: 6 Aug, 2023

From: Bernard Quoroll

former local authority CEO

In response to: Do We Want Totally Centralised Government?

Sadly, that moment has long since passed. A half-hearted attempt to proclaim some sort of local mandate for citizens was abruptly put down by Margaret Thatcher, years ago.

Every government of whatever political persuasion in my lifetime has included some form of reference to promoting local decision-making in their manifestos. Every government in power has done the opposite. Whoever controls the purse strings controls the decision-making powers of citizens and that has never changed.

But of course, every place is different and every community has a distinctive idea of what it should be or become. The people who live and work in the Whitehall bubble have little conception of how other people live their lives and Oxbridge-trained generalists who still dominate Whitehall, think they know better.

Worse, the one-size-fits-all nature of centralised policymaking makes failure more likely and stifles tailored solutions to local challenges.

The reduction in funding from the centre has accelerated since 2008. Local government took the biggest hit of any public service and continues to do so. But it is not free of censure. By timidly pretending it was coping over so many years when the reality was so very different, local politicians have failed in their duty to the people who voted for them.

A solution is only likely through constitutional change. Local government needs its own bill of rights to provide a better balance between central and local decision-making. Something similar perhaps to that imposed on Germany by Whitehall politicians after WW2.

It is ironic that our leaders recognised that doing so would restrain the ambitions of overweening central government but failed to learn those lessons for themselves!

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