It seems to be the trend for all the main parties to propose that they will slim down Central Government and devolve more decision making to local authorities (whether that be local councils, assemblies, or health PCTs) in order to give more local accountability and boost local democracy.
I have a bit of a problem with this sort of proposal.
- Whilst a decision making process is centralised, it is more efficient. Start to devolve the decision making and you end up replicating the same Whitehall jobs all over the country, just more beuracracy. Council Tax would possibly have to increase to pay for more staff.
- Anybody that's ever had to have dealings with local councils will know how bad they can be at investigating and resolving problems.
- More chance of a postcode lottery on public services.
- When local authorities get more powers, you get anomolies like Poole Council that spied on a family all day for weeks just to see if they were in the right school catchment area. Local authorities can't be trusted not to abuse powers. Granted Central Government can abuse power too.
- Above all else, when there is a major f*ckup, like the Baby P scandal and just last week the fiasco at Kent hospitals, I want somebody at the top, a Government Minister, not an unknown local executive, to be answerable and to take the rap. But as more and more gets devolved, it will just be an excuse for them (Government Ministers) to pass the buck and say "not me gov, its your local authority".