The Green Party’s deputy leader makes a valid point here. If councillors are elected locally then shouldn’t any public money they have access to be spent for the benefit of the local community on democratic principles? It should surely not be spent to further the national aims of central governments.
He said: ‘The money authorities receive from central government is useful, but surely it can’t also tell local authorities what their individual priorities must be? It shouldn’t tell councils what to spend their money on, because democratically-elected councils know what their local policy priorities need to be.’
Cllr Duckworth’s criticism of central government micromanagement of local priorities and spending – which councils elected by voters have traditionally been expected to control – was made during a televised debate on rubbish collection.
In common with councils across the country, Dudley Borough Council has been offered money by the government to collect rubbish once per week, but at the same time the Coalition has cut funding which would have been spent on priority policies including education, employment and services to help the elderly and vulnerable in the region.
He said: ‘The money the government has offered – £1.8m for five years – is fine, but this is about priorities. How can central government decide our priority should be weekly litter collections and give us a small bribe to do that, but at the same time say that services to help old and young people must be low priority and reduce our funding for those things?’
He added: ‘I can understand that people want weekly collections of some waste. So do we. Kitchen waste should be collected once per week, but we simply don’t need all rubbish collected that often. In almost every case, people who have changed from weekly to fortnightly collection, with weekly kitchen waste collections, have preferred the new system.
‘Imposing priorities on local authorities, who have been elected to look after the needs of the people, is not localism, whatever the government says.’