Putting the local back into local government


By Alex Robertson

There’s a small item in the news about a Clackmannanshire councillor, once Labour but now independent, saying that the SNP are doing a great job in local government.  Glad to hear that, Mr. Eddie Carrick.

He called the SNP local council a “revelation” and expressed the wish that his council not be recaptured by the Labour Party.

There seem to be quite a few ex-Labour politicians expressing similar views. And not only politicians, ordinary people and voters begin to recognise competent no-nonsense government.  It seems too obvious to say how important a part local government plays in the everyday lives of us all but I believe most people want their local council to pay attention to the basic things which make a real difference to our lives. Like repairing potholes in the roads, keeping all the street lamps burning, and doing a decent job of keeping the space we live in as green and clean as possible.

There are many demands on the budget of a local council, and often not enough money to do all the things demanded of them.  But we would all settle for practical solutions, for example building partnership schemes with communities to improve residential areas, or providing simple premises for start up business and running voluntary help schemes for new small businesses, like using retired business people to advise and mentor small startups, in the expectation that such enterprises offer a real effective way to boost employment, job-hunting clubs with real support for self help.

Policing, schools, sanitation and rubbish disposal all form the business as usual of good government, but there is so much more can be done with a bit of imagination, which would make a real difference to people’s lives and morale.  

Unused office space can easily be turned into small business centres at no extra cost. With the leadership of a council with imagination, schemes to improve neighbourhoods, painting, mowing grass spaces, all sorts of things which can be done using effort from the community itself, but needing leadership and minimal resources in support.  Giving people a stake in their own environment and local economy would do miracles for self confidence and pride.

As May 3 rolls nearer, I would look out for councillors with imagination and a real commitment to and ideas for their local community. People who want big offices and grand schemes are not what these times call for. But candidates who want to empower people to make a difference to their lives themselves, they are worth their weight in gold. Forget about ideology or dogma, what we need now is straightforward practical and competent local government. And the SNP have set a good example at national level, now let’s put the “local” back into local government.