Trebling the number of councils ‘not practical’
Local authority’s leader rejects report’s increase claims
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