The message is going out loud and clear: this kind of waste cannot go on and should not happen. It is entirely right for the Government to conduct a full review of local government finance and right that that review should restore to our councils a general power of competence. For far too long, councils have been dictated to by central Government. Reference has already been made to the estimate that only 5% of local government spending is controlled by elected councils. That means that of the £7,000 a head spent on local public services, only £350 is under local democratic control.
I was a councillor for five years, and in that time I became increasingly frustrated with Government interference, much of which prevented me and my colleagues from doing our job. It is for that reason that local government has often been described as a delivery arm of central Government. We often took decisions not because they were the right ones for our community, but because the Government had told us that that was what they wanted us to do and they applied pressure through directives, centrally set targets, inspection regimes and the final sanction of taking away grants. It is refreshing for all involved in local government-both officers and councillors-that the coalition Government plans set out to provide councils with the freedom and the resources to concentrate on local priorities and deliver front-line services by stopping the ring-fencing of central Government grants.
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