Vir Cantium

I'm right, you know …

Feathering the nest while you have the chance

Labour councillors seek higher pay, more perks and better pensions.
Hmm, so just as the latest local government finance deal shifts ever more resources to Labour heartlands in the North, a report commissioned for the government proposes pay rises, more perks and other de-restrictions on councillors, which will primarily benefit … councillors in Labour heartlands.

Underpinning the report, we are told, is the desire to reinvigorate local democracy – increasing turnout, widening the range of backgrounds of councillors, etc.

We have seen many attempts to increase turnout over the last ten years. Increasing postal voting, electronic voting, polling booths in supermarkets, and now a lottery whereby voting enters you in a prize draw. The more ideas, and the wackier, that the government comes up with, the more obvious becomes the elephant in the room – voting at weekends. Surely the government reticence about simply changing the voting day has nothing to do with the fact that such a change would almost certainly benefit the Conservatives more than Labour?

Then there is the issue of attracting a wider range of people into local politics. The biggest single problem with local government is that in so many policy areas, the local council sometimes seems to be little more than a branch office of Whitehall. Whether it’s ring-fenced funding, money to “incentivise” cash-strapped authorities to toe a government line, rafts of government targets, or token devolution of powers without the corresponding funding streams, power is either being centralised or the gerrymandering of the finance system means that councils are in a financial straightjacket that serious limits the power of councillors, and thus the value of the local election vote.

Not that my own party has clean hands on this one, I admit – for all the many great things that Margaret Thatcher did, her centralising of power from local level to Whitehall was not one of her finer achievements – though it must be noted, it was largely driven by the actions of the loony left councils.

Nevertheless, we do now seem to have a Labour Party, knowing that its days in power are numbered taking the opportunity to bolster its grassroots base ready for the rebuilding process that will follow their defeat in the General Election.

Oh, of course, it’s an independent commission. My mistake.

OK, dull councillor rant over. I’ve got work to do.

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