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Views of the week: 24 September 2009

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LGC rounds up the best comment, analysis and opinion from the past week. Click on the headlines for more…

Vince Cable in the Mail on Sunday on: Restoring confidence

Politicians must restore public confidence and enthusiasm in party politics, says Mr Cable. The challenge is clear: millions no longer vote. In at number six on his 10-point plan is restoring local pride and decision-making. Councils have been stripped of most of their functions by central government and billions spent on quangossecond-guessing and overseeing what elected local councils do, he says.

Healthy politics needs strong local government and Whitehall doesn’t always know best. Other measures include: reforming party funding; cutting 150 MPs andelecting a smaller second chamber; making MPs financially responsible; cleaning up MPs’ expenses; extending the vote to 16-year-olds; introducing fixed four-year parliaments; and ditching the first-past-the-post system.

LGC says: While the Lib Dems are unlikely to be able to implement these, some may translate to local government and others may be taken up discreetly by other parties.

The Times on: Breaking the c-word silence

All of a sudden, says The Times, it is as if the political classes had been gripped by Tourette’s syndrome and a desire to use the “c-word”. Gordon Brown, Ed Balls, Andy Burnham, Vince Cable and David Cameron are falling over themselves to tell us what they will cut. But good ideas are going to waste.

Last week former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith’s benefits reform proposals were rejected by Labour and received a lukewarm welcome from the Tories. But this is the kind of thinking we need, says The Times. When Canada cut spending by a fifth in the 1990s it introduced permanent processes to improve public services while controlling costs. The same should happen here.

The Financial Times on: The rush to cut

At this rate Armageddon will arrive before the two main parties have decided where the blade will fall, says the FT leader disdainfully, before going on to find solutions in popular culture. Combine the spending review with the National Lottery: divide spending into 50 chunks, give each a number and cut the five whose digits come out of the machine first. Or pick up the recently abandoned Big Brother format. Failing that, ask Joanna Lumley or Lily Allen to decide.

LGC says: Perhaps the FT is on to something; citizen engagement…

The Times’ Peter Jones on: Scottish Cuts

Following John Swinney’s budget, the SNP’s real Achilles’ heel is likely to be local government spending, says Mr Jones. Real-time funding cuts combined with ring-fenced money and wage increases will affect local services and public opinion.

The SNP concordat effectively stifles local councillors’ public expression of dissent. But such is the pressure now on council budgets, that grip may weaken and councils may speak out.


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