Tre­bling the num­ber of coun­cils ‘not prac­ti­cal’

Lo­cal au­thor­ity’s leader re­jects re­port’s in­crease claims

Rutherglen Reformer - - News - Dou­glas Dickie

South La­nark­shire Coun­cil leader, Ed­die McAvoy, has re­jected claims the num­ber of coun­cils in Scot­land should be in­creased.

Re­spond­ing to the pub­lish­ing of a rad­i­cal re­port into the future of lo­cal gov­ern­ment across the coun­try, Coun­cil­lor McAvoy said tre­bling the num­ber of au­thor­i­ties would “not be prac­ti­cal.”

A re­port from the Com­mis­sion on Strength­en­ing Lo­cal Democ­racy, pub­lished last week, sug­gest hand­ing more power to lo­cal au­thor­i­ties.

The re­port ar­gues there is a link between in­equal­ity and the ab­sence of strong lo­cal democ­racy and calls on 50 years of cen­tral­i­sa­tion to be re­versed.

Hand­ing coun­cils more fis­cal pow­ers, in­clud­ing the right to raise 50 per cent of their in­come through tax­a­tion, also praised the Scan­di­na­vian model of “highly lo­calised and par­tic­i­pa­tive demo­cratic struc­tures.”

A Glas­gow news­pa­per last week sug­gested Cosla, who com­mis­sioned the re­port, have dis­cussed a fig­ure of around 100 au­thor­i­ties rather than the cur­rent 32.

Coun­cil­lor McAvoy, who is at war with Cosla over fund­ing, said he would rather see South La­nark­shire re­main: “In my opin­ion, that’s un­work­able.

“The sit­u­a­tion we have is that smaller coun­cil’s with around 60-70,000 peo­ple are al­ready strug­gling be­cause they sim­ply don’t have the re­sources.

“If they make coun­cils smaller, how will they have the power and money to ex­pand ser­vices?

“We are build­ing 145 new schools, no other coun­cil in Bri­tain is do­ing that. Break that down into three ar­eas, where do they get that type of fi­nance?”

Speak­ing about in­creases in tax rais­ing pow­ers, Coun­cil­lor McAvoy added: “It’s not the right time for that.

“We have got to find £ 20m worth of sav­ings in the next few months and we are open­ing new food­banks, not just for the un­em­ployed, but also for part-time work­ers.

“So you can’t go to peo­ple right now and say we are go­ing to raise coun­cil tax or put charges up. “This is not the time to do that.” Ruther­glen South Lib Dem coun­cil­lor Robert Brown has been a sup­porter of de­cen­tral­i­sa­tion, and de­scribed the re­port as a “su­perb and ground­break­ing anal­y­sis.”

He added: “A typ­i­cal coun­cil in Europe serves a pop­u­la­tion of 20,000 peo­ple - in Scot­land the av­er­age coun­cil size is 165,000. The Com­mis­sion rightly points out that the day of the su­per­sized ap­proach to democ­racy is over - there needs to be a close match between the lo­cal gov­ern­ment units and the com­mu­ni­ties they rep­re­sent.

“I have long ar­gued for a ‘Burgh Power’ ap­proach. The Scot­tish Lib­eral Democrats ‘Camp­bell Com­mis­sion’ Re­port - of which I was a mem­ber -also ar­gued for com­mu­nity power.

“Of course we don’t want an­other top down re­or­gan­i­sa­tion of lo­cal gov­ern­ment - but the re­port recog­nises the need for change to be driven by lo­cal peo­ple - peo­ple in a big city like Glas­gow have dif­fer­ent needs to those in the re­moter ar­eas of the High­lands and Bor­ders - and dif­fer­ent again to those on his­toric com­mu­ni­ties like Ruther­glen or Cam­bus­lang.”

Launch­ing the re­port, Coun­cil­lor David O’Neill, chair of the Com­mis­sion, said: “We un­der­stand how dif­fi­cult it is to throw off the shack­les of the cur­rent way of look­ing at democ­racy.

“How­ever, the re­al­ity is that if we are se­ri­ous about mak­ing Scot­land fairer, wealth­ier and health­ier then we need to start putting lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties in con­trol over what mat­ters to them.”

Leader Ruther­glen Cen­tral and North Labour coun­cil­lor Ed­die McAvoy

Wel­comeRuther­glen Lib­eral Demo­crat coun­cil­lor Robert Brown wel­comed the re­port

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