Call for more power to councils – Daily Mail

Maureen Culley
Daily Mail, 30.6.08

An independent think tank will today call for councils to be given the right to raise more of their own funds. 

In a document hailed a \’recipe for the revival of local democracy in Scotland,\’ Reform Scotland also criticises the Scottish Executive\’s proposals to replace the council tax with a local income tax.

Ben Thomson, chairman of teh policy organisation, said: "Taxes such as the local income tax proposed by the Scottish government, that are centrally set, do nothing to give local authotities more control and therefore have no advantage over the current system.\’

The report also calls on the Executive to poll residents in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow to learn if they want the power to elect their city provosts or mayors.

It further recommends that councils be given greater responibility ober their own elections, and calls for councils to be able to raise at least half of their income.

It argues that local authorities shouldd be given control over setting business rates for their area, citing its own survey that showed councillors wanted more power.

A total of 175 councillors responded to the study, with 67 per cent agreeing councils did not have enough autonomy to run services, while 80 per cent believed local authorities needed more power to raise more of their own income.

Mr Thomson said: "By giving local authorities greater financial power, so that over time they raise the majority of their own revenues, they should become more responsive to the communities they serve.

"A first step would be to return business rates to local control."

Reform Scotland is also calling for a new constitutional relationship between the Executive and councils.

Mr Thomson said: "The new relationship between Holyrood and local government should be based on the principle of power being exercised at the lowest possible level with local authorities having much greater freedom to set their own tax levels so that they can raise the bulk of their revenue.

"This, together with our other recommendations, is a recipe for the revival of local democracy in Scotland.

"It will enable us to deliver better public services for local communities that are better suited to the needs of the local area, to reduce the huge bureaucracy needed to oversee the current centralised system of public service delivery and it will help to restore faith in our political system by bringing government closer to the people."

David Parker, leader of Scottish Borders Council, said it raised \’interesting questions for local government\’.

He added: " Its ideas about empowering communities and bringing local government services closer to the public are very welcome."