I watched last Sunday’s South East ‘Politics Show’ on the BBC iPlayer a day or two ago, and was pleased to see Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark, newly appointed Minister for Decentralisation presenting both the Pickering Cancer Drop-in Centre, and the TN2 Community Centre in Sherwood as examples of where local people can bring projects to life if the support exists from Government, both national and local.
I’m all in favour of David Cameron’s “Big Society” approach, and have spent nearly a decade in local government fighting to give local people more influence over their own communities – even if it means (as it often does) fighting against some of the mechanics of local government to stop interference for the wrong reasons.
Which is why I was a little confused that, after Greg’s excellent film on local projects, a short interview entitled “How Local is Local” (position 54.32 on the playback) with the Leader of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (who also happens to be a County Councillor!) commented:
“I do not want all the powers that might be delegated or devolved being ‘hoovered up’ by the County Council. It has to be delivered at the lowest possible level within that complex of government”.
Extraordinary. What does it have to do with any “complex of government”? I hope when David Cameron talks about devolution of power and influence, he means to communities themselves rather than either County or Borough Councils. To slavishly claim that County, District or Borough Councils are the lowest level when there are so many excellent community groups, residents’ associations, parish and town councils and so on, is really outdated.
If we’re going local, let’s go local – to misquote another leader, ‘it’s the residents, stupid’.