By John Griffiths, received 12 June 2015
Local government, in the form of local councils in the UK, helps underpin the fabric of our society and to oil the wheels of our local communities. Many may not realise how important it is to our daily lives, though almost everyone certainly would if it suddenly ceased to exist! In our mixed economy, councils often also provide the services that cannot be provided fairly, or afforded, by the market, or which require democratic input when affecting the future of local communities.
Since 2010, the coalition government, and now the Conservative government, has been seeking to bolster the importance of local, as opposed to national, government, through our and their localism agenda. I believe there are four reasons why localism and, therefore, local government is particularly important:
Local government is accessible
The services we provide, and their quality, affect people’s daily lives. Whitehall is too distant to make decisions about many of these, and often too big and remote for residents to access, talk to, and hold to account
Local government suits local areas
No one-size-fits all in public services (or at least it shouldn’t in my view), and local government often allows for services to be tailored to the circumstances and special needs or requirements of local areas, be they rural, urban, historic, modern, thriving or struggling.
Local government involves local people
Both Councillors and staff in local government know, and have a vested interest in, the area they serve. We know our residents better than most, and are, therefore, best placed to work with and for them – and to help support them in creating a better future for us all.
Local government is more flexible
Making changes in national government can feel like trying to turn a tanker around. Local government can (and should be) much more fleet of foot, and needs to constantly evolve and adapt to changing circumstances.
Cllr John Griffiths is Leader of the St Edmundsbury Borough Council.