Cllr Robert Brown

Ruther­glen South, Lib­eral Demo­crat

Rutherglen Reformer - - News From The Pews -

There has been a fash­ion for a long time for more cen­tral­i­sa­tion in Ed­in­burgh – a sin­gle po­lice force, cen­tral con­trol of coun­cil tax, cen­tral tar­gets on everything that moves.

The pro­pos­als by SNP ed­u­ca­tion sec­re­tary John Swin­ney to grab pow­ers from lo­cal coun­cils over schools in the name of “ed­u­ca­tion re­form”is the lat­est in a long line of salami slic­ing changes that have dam­aged lo­cal democ­racy.

There was a time when lo­cal coun­cils ran buses, trams and col­leges, con­trolled wa­ter and sew­er­age, and pro­vided mu­nic­i­pal gas and other ser­vices. In the post war pe­riod, there were ma­jor house build­ing and re­gen­er­a­tion pro­grammes run for the most part by coun­cils or lo­cal hous­ing as­so­ci­a­tions.

Lib­eral Democrats have called for South La­nark­shire Coun­cil to be more open and ac­count­able to lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties. But coun­cils should also become again the main en­gines of lo­cal democ­racy – re­sourced to do the job prop­erly, rais­ing more of their own fi­nance rather than be­ing de­pen­dent on hand­outs from cen­tral govern­ment, em­pow­ered to do what is nec­es­sary to let lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties thrive, re­spon­si­ble to lo­cal people for dif­fer­ent vi­sions of what works lo­cally.

But coun­cils need to work lo­cally too, in part­ner­ship with lo­cal or­gan­i­sa­tions, help­ing them build ca­pac­ity, de­liv­er­ing ef­fec­tive com­mu­nity power for ar­eas like Ruther­glen and Cam­bus­lang.

The de­bate has changed over Brexit too. No longer is the talk of op­por­tu­ni­ties – rather is it how to limit the dam­age be­ing caused by Brexit. Pub­lic opin­ion is turn­ing against the whole thing.

Vince Ca­ble MP, set to become the new Lib­eral Demo­crat leader, says he thinks Brexit may well not hap­pen be­cause of its sheer com­plex­ity and the huge prob­lems and dis­rup­tion it will cause. He is right – the whole Brexit thing is an enor­mous mis­take.

Yet Theresa May and Jeremy Cor­byn are both com­mit­ted to a hard Brexit. In­deed Jeremy Cor­byn has al­ways been hos­tile to the Euro­pean Union. But why on earth is the Labour Party giv­ing such a free hand to the Tories on Brexit?

Cllr Robert Brown

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