Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Local Government: Follow The Money

Local government minister and Labour leadership second favourite (now 7/1) David Miliband has been twittering about narrowing "society's power gap":

"He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We need to address the feeling that people want more control over their lives. I call this the power gap." He pressed for "double devolution" - moving power not only from the state to local government but also from local councils to neighbourhoods, using the voluntary sector."

This of course is Grade A Crapspeak, underlined by the fact that the appalling Milburn has been opining on the same subject:

"Empowering citizens is the modern route to social justice. Subsidiarity - having power located at the lowest possible level - should be the guiding principle."

To start with, it's laughably obvious that they're only saying it to counter one of Dave Cameron's Big Ideas.

Second, this subsidiarity stuff only works if you also devolve the money. No less than 75% of local authority funding now comes from the Treasury, and as we all know, he who pays the piper always calls the tune. The only way of securing real localism is to return real fiscal authority to local government.

And there are a number of practical ways this could be done. One of the easiest would be a Local Sales Tax (LST), as proposed by Direct Democracy last summer:

"LST would visibly replace an existing levy. By happy coincidence, the amount of money raised for the Treasury by VAT (£64 billion) happens to be almost identical to the grant given by Whitehall to town halls (£66 billion). LST would therefore not simply be an additional impost; it would allow for the scrapping of a complex and unpopular tax. It would encourage tax competition. Local authorities would have an incentive to lower their rates so as to attract custom and thus boost their revenues."

Did M and M mention anything about that? Did they hell.

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