This post is not binding
We at WLLG towers really like localism.
Thus, when we heard that the localism bill would include a new provision around local government polls and referendums we were tentatively quite pleased. In fact so excited were we that one of my colleagues dug up the briefing paper prepared by the auspicious House of Commons library no less.
Up and down the land excited WLLG authors opened up the paper and were greeted with a very positive first line:
The Localism Bill 2010-12 contains provisions which would enable residents to trigger a local referendum by petition. Additionally, local councillors will be able to request a referendum in their local area (subject to approval by council resolution) or the authority itself may resolve to hold a referendum on a local issue.
It’s a good start and whilst it is important for any provision to show a balance between direct and representative democracy the fact that councillors are going to be involved might help balance that.
Besides, we’ve only just read the first line of the document and the experts of the House of Commons library are sure to have provided some further details as to how this delicate balance might be achieved.
So let’s read on. Line 2 of the library research note:
A local authority will not be bound by the result of a referendum
WHAT?!?! Sorry, have I misread something? Let’s try again:
A local authority will NOT be bound by the result of a referendum
So, let me get this straight; essentially we will decide for ourselves if we want to ask people whether they want something, then either agree with them or not depending on what the council’s opinion is. And that is different from what council’s currently do, how? Because there is a vote we can ignore rather than a consultation we can ignore?
There are almost no words to describe the ridiculousness of this position.
Well, except there are, courtesy of… Wait for it… Zac Goldsmith MP. I never thought I’d quote Zac Goldsmith on this blog but he sums it up almost perfectly:
The referendums on offer are purely advisory and therefore have the status, in real terms, of the usual no-hope petition – although they are a hell of a lot more expensive.
Couldn’t have put it better myself!
The localism bill is meant to empower local people and pass power away from Westminster. If this proposal is anything to go by then it is not empowering local people or empowering local councils. It is simply giving the mirage of localism.
A local authority will not be bound by the result of a referendum.
Welovelocalgovernment is a blog written by UK local government officers. If you have a piece you’d like to submit or any comments you’d like to make please drop us a line at: firstname.lastname@example.org