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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Why Eric Pickles doesnt get localism (or devolution for that matter)

Today's Times carries a report in which the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles seeks to attack the Welsh Labour Government for not imposing the sort of draconian controls on local government that he has implemented in England.

Over the border, Councils are offered a financial incentive not to raise their council tax and are told that if they want to increase it by 2% or more they need to hold an expensive referendum. Now, I want to reduce bills as much as anybody but in my view the best way to do that is through local accountability.

Philosophically, I have no problem with the government incentivising councils if it wishes, but I do have a problem with ministers restricting local councils' room for manoeurvre through top-down directives that bypass local decision-making.

I have an even bigger problem with an English Minister telling Wales how to spend its money. That is not his job and even he must realise that (a) council tax remains lower in Wales than in England and (b) council tax is not set by Welsh Ministers, it is set by Councillors who, it must be said, still have a lot to answer for with the burdens they impose on electors and for which they are accountable through local elections.
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