Anne Marie Waters
Sunday 21st February 2021
This May, our local elections return. These were cancelled in 2020 because of COVID restrictions, and it’s still unclear exactly how the logistics will work this year, but as it stands, they are going ahead.
Local elections are both far more interesting and far more important than I suspect some people realise. They’re interesting because the public are more willing to back independents or newcomers or small parties in these elections, while they have tended in the past to stick with ‘the big two’ when casting their Parliamentary vote.
Local elections are important because of the power that councils actually exercise. Local governments determine the kind of areas we live in and that’s no small matter. I’ll list some of their most significant powers below. These powers are of course subject to rules set down by central government and can vary from local authority to local authority, but I’ll set this out as an overview.
Planning and construction
Local councils decide what is built and constructed in our towns and boroughs. That obviously means they determine the very character of our neighbourhoods. Whether it be enormous shopping complexes (which can obviously bring jobs but also destroy village or country life and have a detrimental effect on small business) or enormous mosques, these can bring significant changes to our lives.
This quite obviously affects housing and its quality. Local government oversees whether we have decent homes and whether we can afford them.
It is For Britain policy to give local people a direct say, via referenda, over major construction in their area.
Street Names and Monuments
This has become particularly pertinent with the rise of hard-left groups like Black Lives Matter. These aggressive communists are demanding that British history and heritage be dismantled (just like in Communist China) and that the historical character be re-written. They are succeeding. Labour has promised to “review” thousands of street names, memorials, building names and beyond to wipe out anything deemed “racist”. Keeping in mind that no proof of “racism” is required, we have seen tributes to great British figures defaced, and names posthumously slandered, by the hard-left with the help of the anti-British Labour Party. This will continue for as long as people continue to vote Labour in local elections. Significantly, London is run by a Labour Mayor and he too has promised to re-write the history of our incredible capital city.
It is For Britain policy to prevent any more street name changes or monument destruction. We would also reinstate any statues or monuments removed so far.
Council tax is set by local governments (but subject to thresholds by central government) and quite obviously, how much people are taxed, and how this money is spent, is hugely important to the health and well-being of a town, city, or borough. It is how the money is spent that people are often most aggrieved by. For example, in Hartlepool (where I live), the local government spent above £1 million in 2019 funding a mere 7 staff members. This is not unusual. One can often find that unelected council chiefs take home 6 figure salaries while people who can ill afford it, continue to see their taxes go up and their services go down. Again, this will continue for as long as people continue to vote for the same parties.
It is For Britain policy to keep council tax as low as possible and use public money not for huge salaries, but for the people. It is also For Britain policy to make unelected council bosses accountable to the public via our proposed Public Sector Accountability Act (which would also make police and NHS chiefs similarly accountable).
Something that bothers a lot of people in Hartlepool is the state of our streets. Rubbish and fly-tipping are a major problem. It’s unsightly and unhygienic and people contact me regularly to complain. I, along with For Britain councillor Karen King, have many times taken it upon ourselves to clean up the towns beaches and parks, but there is only so much we can do. The fact is that rubbish is not collected as often as it should. The council collects one bin per household per week, and alternates between general refuse and recycling. It’s not enough. Furthermore, access to the local tip has been severely restricted since the COVID 19 pandemic began, and now it is necessary to register and fill out reams of paperwork merely to drop off household rubbish.
It is For Britain policy to keep our streets clean and prioritise this over silly politically correct pet projects or enormous council salaries.
This is crucial to the logistics of a town or borough and can have an enormous impact on jobs. Whether good bus services are available, decent roads, or our ability to park our car, is to a large extent the responsibility of local government. If we are stuck in traffic for hours, or struggle to visit the town centre because parking is prohibitively expensive, it has a large and obvious impact on the economic health of towns and boroughs.
Disadvantaged children, as well as elderly and disabled people, will often have their fate tied up in the hands of the local government. What services and help are available will be decided in local elected chambers. I shouldn’t need to state the significance of this, it is the great moral responsibility of local authorities, and sadly, many of our country’s most vulnerable citizens, whom we should be caring for, are left with substandard services that don’t meet their needs. Again, it should be obvious that such people should be prioritised over fat-cat salaries for unelected chiefs, but it simply doesn’t happen.
This is only the tip of the iceberg. Other areas of life handled by local authorities include coastal protections, arts and recreation, education (the construction of schools for example), elections, libraries, tourism, markets and fairs, and licensing, to name but a few.
With all of this in mind, who we elect to our local chambers is vital to the health and well-being of our nation. Many of our most serious problems are caused by lacklustre local authority that has become complacent and puts the interests of the politicians above the interests of the people – they do this because they take the public vote for granted, just like national government does.
I believe that this May will bring new life to local governments across our country. It is our chance to embrace new ideas and priorities, and breathe new life in to a stagnant local system.
It’s important. Local government matters, because the British people matter, and we deserve better.
Anne Marie Waters
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