Monday, 29 December 2014

How We Are Governed

There is so much going on it is difficult to pick a topic that might be of general interest and add much to the amount of discussion.  Sometimes, however, there are items that tell you a great deal despite being well outside the usual arenas of debate.

What goes on and why in local government is one of them.  This is another area of government which is very different from the past.

This book review from the LSE is about local government today and what it means.  Indeed it urges that everyone should read it.   At 950 words the review is longish given that the prose is, let us say, challenging.  For example, you are invited to consider a comparative gauge on an imagined urban Richter Scale of Community Dissonance in local governmentality.

As we walk around our town, the refuse bins are overflowing with litter all over the place, the drains are blocked, the pavements where there are trees now have two or more years layers of leaves and indeed they are rarely repaired making walking a high risk activity.

The lights are going out and the rats are celebrating freedom. There are many potholes in the roads with their dangers and many trunk road foundations are collapsing.  Child welfare services seem to be about anything but welfare.  Education has become one of life's eternal mysteries.

On the larger scale it is claimed that there is a serious lack of social housing, the town centre regularly goes into traffic gridlock, public spaces unkempt and uncared and public services as whole being less accessible and more expensive.

In the A&E Ward at the local hospital at weekends there is often ugly mayhem arising from all the drunks and their associates.  The police feel unable to deal with them, irrespective of the risks.  It appears that the night time clubbing and drinking economy might be hindered according to the local council.

In the municipal buildings, however, there are teams of highly qualified staff rather than administrative departments, many on salaries exceeding the Prime Minister's.  There are paid groups of councillors in never ending meetings.

They are advised not only by appointed officers but by a horde of special advisers and outside consultants, the latter from major financial operators at great cost.  There was a time when the officers were supposed to know that they were doing.

These  are mostly considering the implications of the thousands of new regulations and directives "outputted" each year by central government, often at on the instructions of the EU and any one of the large number of international agencies.  It is probable that all this is essentially centrally directed with only local application.

A great deal of this is done not by committees with agenda's listing items for decision or action but in the many groups designated in one form or another who talk about policy, strategy, concept determination, structures, organisational meaning and imperatives and this is all centred on community cohesion.

This is what it is about and not the day to day business of providing, managing and upkeep of basic services.

Now it is neither local nor government.

1 comment:

  1. "There are paid groups of councillors in never ending meetings."

    Many council and quango staff do almost nothing but attend meetings and the point of almost every meeting is to arrange another one.

    I knew quite a few like that. Well paid, car allowance, expenses and a good pension.