Friday, 27 March 2015

Wanted! Freedom of Action

In the "Political Quarterly" during 2014, Judith Clifton wrote on "Beyond Hollowing Out; Straitjacketing The State" and now has a short version on the LSE Web Site.

It is here to read.  An extract gives an insight into the nature of the problem.


There are hundreds of examples where EU rules straitjacket states. Representatives of local authorities around Europe were keen to point me to instances where it was perceived that Commission or European Court of Justice decisions had stripped them of their core social functions.

Major associations, including the UK’s Local Government Association, the Convention of Scottish Authorities (COSLA) and the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) – which is the largest grouping of local government authorities in Europe consisting of 150,000 local and regional authorities – lament that the Commission has the large power to define what is and what is not a public service and interferes excessively in local government decision making.

The CEMR complains that the EC proclaims to be neutral but in practice veers towards applying internal market rules to public services in an overly-market focused way, eroding local democracy.

Another examples of straitjacketing the state is when the Scottish government was pressurised to making the running of the so-called ‘life-line’ ferries, linking the mainland to islands, compatible with EC law by introducing complex competitive tendering procedures in order to justify continuing its ferry subsidies.

A study by Paul Bennett showed the real potential for competition was minimal, and the design of the tenders focused on cost and did little to guarantee service quality, adequate investment, social cohesion and low fares for users.


The superficial and knockabout way we are governed goes on without much of the reality entering into either the debate or the real examination of the needs and the means of addressing them.

There is a singular lack of understanding across the media at all levels and among those who are supposed to be doing the governing and advising on the nature of rule by and for the European Commission.

As things stand it is going to get a lot worse and if it does then we may arrive at a point where it cannot be made better.

How far are we off that point?

1 comment:

  1. The Environment Agency recently had to explain why river quality has apparently taken a nosedive. It's because of new EU rules - it isn't a real nosedive.

    So what is the point of the Environment Agency now? It has been hollowed out.