The changes that will be brought about by the reductions in Government grants to local government are going to be on a massive scale. In future Councils will not have thousands of staff (many only doing the bidding of whatever Government is in power anyway) and the scope of council services will be far less than it has been for many years.
In principle, to a Liberal like me, ‘Big Government’ is normally bad governance as it means more rules and regulations controlling our lives. Locally big government manifests itself as ‘municipal socialism’, it has taken over our lives and it has not only been promoted by Labour! Seriously, Sefton Tories have pursued and indeed are still pursuing some local unaffordable projects such as the rebuilding of Southport Indoor Market (against the wishes of the vast majority of Southport’s councillors) and the rebuilding of Netherton Activity Centre. Both will cost millions that Sefton does not have and if this is not municipal socialism gone mad I don’t know what is.
What we need is local governance with services being managed at a very local level. Ever since the Second Word War and probably before it we have been centralising power and control in Westminster and indeed within remote and large councils. Take Sefton as an example, it covers all the way from Southport in the north right down to Bootle in the south taking in Formby, Crosby, Maghull and many other smaller communities. It has been a local government entity since 1974 but can it ever have been able to claim that it knows its communities well and that it delivers services appropriately to those very diverse town and villages? The answer has to be a resounding no as for many of its years it tried to govern on a one size fits all basis. It has not worked and thankfully lessons have been learned. We are now embarking on a new era which I hope will lead to true community empowerment; a process I have been very keen to drive forward.
The spending cuts are going to change councils forever but what we need to do is to focus that change on real communities. The challenges are enormous but the prize of better local governance and less of big brother telling us all what to do is a big one.