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‘Local councils need more powers’ – Express

By Paul Gilbride

Scotland should have fewer councils but with greater powers, an influential think-tank has said.

Reform Scotland wants there to be just 19 local authorities instead of the current 32.

But the think tank said these should have more control over local taxes and should also be responsible for providing health services.

In a report looking at local government, it suggested health boards should be scrapped, with councils becoming responsible for health matters.

It also wants new laws to be introduced to allow local authorities to hold referendums on the introduction of directly elected mayors or provosts.

Chairman Ben Thomson said the Scottish Parliament had “reversed devolution by sucking up council powers”.

He said “ This has to stop. For Scotland’s good, we’re calling on everyone to work together to renew local government.”

Reform Scotland argued for the shake-up in its Renewing Local Government report, published less than three weeks after the council elections.  Mr Thomson said the “disappointing” turnout in the vote made it clear that “we have to take action against the erosion of local democracy in Scotland.”

The turnout was said to have been around 38 per cent – the lowest figure since before devolution.

At the last standalone council elections in 1995, turnout was 44.9 per cent.  Mr Thomson said: “we hope to start a vital debate in this country which will result in a solution being found which empowers our Councils, and which engages people at election-time.”

He claimed there was “too much confusion caused by the inconsistent number of councils, police boards and health boards”.