Dear Editor, I was disappointed, but not surprised to hear Phil Woolas’ patronising remarks about West Midlands councils and the implication that they lack ambition, drive and unity.
This is, I’m afraid, all too typical of the government’s attitude to local authorities - they only want to give them fresh powers if they will use them exactly as the Government wants them to.
When Mr Woolas says that councils have to show they can “make tough decisions” (a favourite Labour cliche) on issues such as congestion charging and directly-elected mayors, he means they have to give the answer the government wants to hear. This is a somewhat unusual definition of ambition, drive and leadership, albeit one that Stalin might well have recognised.
If councils “act as individual pressure groups” it is only because the current system of powers and funding means that they virtually have to ask the Government’s permission to go to the toilet, let alone make any “tough decisions”. Their members are, after all, elected to represent the interests of their own areas and will be judged by their electorates on that basis. It is only right and proper, therefore, that they try to maximise the resources available for their own areas.
It is the electorate of the West Midlands who will ultimately decide where the ambition, drive and leadership lies for this region, not an arrogant and out-of-touch minister sitting in Whitehall. I suspect they will conclude that it does not lie with the party currently in Government, who have made the tough decision to saddle us with £175 billion of debt.
Coun Matt Bennett
(Con, Stockland Green Ward, Birmingham City Council)