Local Government Minister Grant Shapps‘ letter in The Guardian today (17 December 2010) refers to the Government’s Localism Bill as a vehicle which ‘will restore local government to its former glory’, and thereby deliver the Big Society.
But what sort of glory might that be, I wonder?
My recollection of the ‘former glory’ of local councils is of unremitting rows of white, mostly wealthy, chaps who suffered few doubts about their right to govern.
With no apparent irony (surely localism works better when there’s adequate resource to enable it?) Shapps further tells us that, ‘Even if the government was awash with cash we’d still be pushing power out to where it belongs – in the hands of the people.’
With scant support or national resource, this looks mightily akin to a return to the hegemony of the former civic ruling elite – those powerful and often identikit aldermen and the like, who had the power and influence to take decisions on our behalf, and sometimes at best in our interests as they, rather than we, saw them.
I suppose the ‘glory’ rather depends on where you’re looking from.