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Local Government Bill Does Not Go Far Enough 01/12/2003

More should be done to encourage independent councillors and “de-couple local government from national politics” says a new pamphlet by the Policy Institute, a Scottish think tank.

“Though the Bill may make local authorities more ‘democratic’, elections are merely a system for selecting representatives. They are not enough on their own to ensure good government,” says the paper, ‘Electing Local Heroes’ by Craig F Smith.

“Local elections are viewed as a referendum on the popularity of the government. What is required is a greater focus on local issues by both candidates and the electorate”

Smith, who has recently completed a PhD in Politics at Glasgow University, says that there is evidence that councils with an independent element (usually in rural Scotland) are both better run and attract more voter interest.

He recommends seven steps to ‘de-nationalise local politics’: making councils responsible for raising their own income; reducing the size of larger local authorities; dissuading candidates from standing on national party tickets; making councillors live in their local authority; directly electing provosts with the power to insist that councillors debated only local issues; encouraging part time involvement by people from different backgrounds; and term limits on councillors to encourage new blood.

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