Dear Editor, I was privileged to attend the one-week, full-time course for councillors at Birmingham University’s Institute of Local Government Studies, during 1973. Prof John Stewart, one of the leading authorities on local government, conducted the course, assisted by some very able staff, as well as visiting lecturers who were employed in senior local government posts. I learnt a lot.
But one thing that came through to me loud and clear during the course was that the present system needs reorganising!
It is even more apparent now. A one-tier system is required, of county councils serving 500,000 to one million or thereabouts, in population. The present district councils could be run as parish councils with unpaid councillors, retaining their mayoralty and civic accoutrements, the councillors being unpaid as existing successful parish/town councils. A small regional structure would appear to make sense to run higher education, police, fire brigades, regional economic planning.
Apparent too is the importance of the development of corporate management; inter-departmental fighting for resources just isn’t on! The real corruption in local government is the furtherance of sectional interests, by the misuse of political power, no area being more in evidence than that of education. There is abundant evidence of a wasteful use of resources, particularly in the sector of further and higher education, also in some areas of administration.
I see the present problems in local government, a shortage of resources, as a good thing, giving the opportunity to councils for the preparation of long-term plans in which priorities are established. In the long term one sees an improved service, at a lower cost to the taxpayer and council taxpayer.