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New council policy a laughing stock

PUBLISHED: 23:00 14 March 2002 | UPDATED: 11:33 03 March 2010

I DIDN'T know whether to laugh or cry when I heard the Tories' latest local government policy the other day.

Party leader Iain Duncan Smith was talking about giving councils more powers – removing government constraints on them.

I DIDN'T know whether to laugh or cry when I heard the Tories' latest local government policy the other day.

Party leader Iain Duncan Smith was talking about giving councils more powers – removing government constraints on them.

Councillors and officials won't have believed a word of his speech – and neither do I!

This, after all, came from the leader of the party that introduced rate-capping and the poll tax – hardly measures to boost local democracy!

The plain fact is that whenever any Westminster politician says they want to give power to local councils, they are lying.

Mr Duncan Smith is lying when he says it now. Tony Blair and John Prescott were lying when they said it before the 1997 election.

Governments are power hungry. They want to grab as much power they can for themselves – or at least recreate local authorities in their own image.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Labour were continually telling us that they would give more powers to councils.

But when they came in, they couldn't leave things alone.

So we now have central government giving money direct to schools, giving money direct to social services projects, and telling councils exactly how much they have to spend in certain areas.

They've also forced changes on local government which give the megalomaniacs the chance to take over the asylum!

And with impotent local authorities, politicians across the country can't work out why so few people vote in elections. I've certainly got an idea on that one!

I BUMPED into an old sparring partner of mine the other day, former Ipswich Council leader David Ball.

He's now working as a consultant advising councils across the country, and told me he'd been spending time in York working with the city council there.

But he still lives in Ipswich – and during the campaign to save the market I was astonished to see that one of only two coupons against it was in his name and apparently from his address.

He'd always told me how he wanted the market to move to the Cornhill – so I never really believed it when I got that coupon.

Mr Ball laughed when I told him about it.

"I certainly didn't send in that coupon, but what's really surprising is that the person who did is clearly so out of touch that they think they can cause embarrassment like that," he said.

IT'S difficult to know who's been enjoying the spat among the ruling Labour group on Suffolk County Council more – the opposition Tories or politicians and officials down the road at Civic Centre in Ipswich.

Certainly there was widespread shock at the sudden downfall of former Labour Euro-MP David Thomas who was dumped from the county's executive committee by new council leader Jane Hore.

It's been a difficult few months for Mr Thomas. He was an early favourite to win the Labour nomination to fight Ipswich after the death of Jamie Cann.

But he failed to be shortlist by party bosses.

Now his county council career has suffered a bit of a hiccup.

But I can't help wondering if, in this case, he could have the last laugh.

He has behaved properly throughout this undignified spat – his only comment has been to say that he regrets leaving the executive and that he will continue to serve as a county councillor.

But I understand there are moves by other members of the Labour group to try to persuade him to challenge Ms Hore for the group leadership.

He's still regarded as a hero by many local Labour members – as the man who ended 15 years of Tory victories in Suffolk Euro-MP contests.

And this support extends to County Hall. A popularity contest between the two political heavyweights later this year could be very entertaining.


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