I follow-up my recent post entitled ‘It’s the Policies Stupid’ and make the following observations. My main criticism was that national politicians were arguing with each other about what new or further powers they needed to respond to the Scottish referendum and the promises made. Government ministers and opposition MPs have not taken note.
The Tories want English MPs only making decisions on English ‘laws’, a Trojan horse for an English Parliament and a clear step in the SNPs direction of a break-up of the UK. The trouble is Labour is in danger of falling into this obvious trap. We appear to be supporting shifts of powers to big city or regional areas as a way of offsetting this clarion call for English votes. Now, it’s hardly surprising that if this is the only game in town, then people need to join in. But it fundamentally misses the wider point.
Why do UKIP appear to have some traction at the moment? Why is that comedian and so called ‘campaigner’ and anarchist Russell Brand is being lauded as some kind of honest thinker who understands what ‘ordinary’ people want?
It’s because nationally the political classes haven’t got the point that people are sick to the back teeth of being told what they want by elitists and so are looking frantically for the answers they seek. Too many politicians believe they are always right and are best to make decisions as the public cannot be trusted. Read my blog about an EU referendum which is a matter of sovereignty.
The answer is simple. Bring power and decision making closer to the people. Let councils raise taxes and then be held accountable through the ballot box. At the moment we have the diabolical situation of councils unable to raise money locally to do local things without first seeking a referendum. This is in a parliamentary democracy that is designed quite rightly to avoid asking the ‘people’ every time a decision needs to be made. Parliament doesn’t have to have a referendum every time to chancellor gives his budget or passes legislation so why should a council? At least at most councils you can vote on the makeup of the authority every year unlike in parliament.
It gets worse. West Midlands Fire Service is working on proposals for a referendum in the near future due to severe financial restraints. The service has reached a tipping point as government grant cuts has left it dangerously exposed. Because they can raise money from what is known as a precept from Council tax, the government say they are fine. However, if they want to go above a 2% limit on the precept to raise much needed funds, they must hold a referendum across the West Midlands. This would cost the service £1million to raise a paltry sum which anyway has a good chance of being rejected. What a mess! A 1.99% rise across the region in 2014/15 has cost on average 2 pence per week per elector to secure a safe fire service.
It’s this crazy situation that will directly affect the day to day real life service that we all rely upon. This is the direct result of national politicians over the years taking power for themselves and not understanding the effect it can have on the local community.
If we want to restore trust in politics, then we must give local people the real power to make local decisions. That means raising real money to make real decisions with ground breaking policies. If the public don’t like them then they can kick them out within 12 months.
Until this country returns to the fundamental rights of representative democracy then the public trust will continue to decline. And democracy doesn’t need to be reinvented again with new political layers or quangos. It’s not about England versus Scotland with the Tories and the SNP building up grievances on both sides of the border but about local people wherever they are feeling their voice is heard. At the moment, they feel it isn’t.
The people aren’t always right but neither are politicians. Until consensus is reached and common sense is applied then I’m afraid the mutual distrust will continue.