Revitalised local government is essential if many of the
government’s aims are to succeed. Public faith in politicians and
their institutions is fragile. The need to restore the link in
people’s minds between their vote and the services that affect
their lives is urgent. Local democracy is the place to start.
However, the extra funding announced for local authorities does not
solve councils’ problems. For some, it won’t even put them on
Those facing steep improvement curves, particularly where
instability in staffing is a factor in poor performance, will have
difficulty investing in staff, particularly given the demand for
In the longer term, this cycle of short-term funding demands
from local government and threats of capping from the centre,
undermines local democracy and the relationship between central and
The solution is what councils advocate: a restoration of the
link between locally accountable decisions and locally raised funds
to implement them. It is to be hoped that the Lyons review of local
government funding will support this.
But even if it does, there is a danger that the government’s
impetus towards greater localism which sidesteps local democracy,
along with constant short-term wrangling over money, will have
dealt a fatal blow to the public’s perception of local government
before the Lyons review can be implemented.