By Daniel Hunter
On Thursday in Parliament a new campaign was being launched to consider how to make the roles of Whitehall and councils clearer to local residents.
The aim is to improve democratic accountability and give greater power to local people, by making it clearer who is in charge of their public services. The campaign is an initiative between Graham Allen MP, Chair of the Political Constitutional Reform Select Committee, and the Local Government Association (LGA).
Currently, local people are unclear about who is ultimately responsible for funding and delivering their public services. MPs and councillors involved in the campaign want to see changes that will make it clearer who is in charge, and consider the merits of entrenching the independence of councils from Whitehall. At present, the role of councils remains loosely defined and they could in theory be abolished by central government.
"For too long local people have been left out of the loop on who is running their public services. It's right that we now look to increase accountability by devising ways of clarifying the relationship between Whitehall and councils," Councillor Sir Merrick Cockell, Chairman of the LGA, said.
"I urge those interested in improving democracy in the UK to get involved in the debate and help voters feel that they are in charge."
The LGA is seeking to encourage debate on the merits of formalising the relationship between Whitehall and local councils. There has been an ongoing consultation by the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee in Parliament and the LGA will be responding to this in full before it closes later this year.
Reforming our democratic constitution is right at the forefront of political debate at present. Changes to the House of Lords are actively being considered, a referendum was last year held on changing the voting system and the Scottish Government has plans to hold a further referendum on independence.
Local councils are elected to oversee a range of vital services for residents — such as care for the elderly, housing and children's services — meaning that their role in our democracy is a key part of any constitutional debate.
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