Review ends up going nowhere

SO AFTER two years of wrangling, blood-letting and general bile-raising that has accompanied it, the final result of local government review is . . . precisely nothing.

SO AFTER two years of wrangling, blood-letting and general bile-raising that has accompanied it, the final result of local government review is . . . precisely nothing.

According to the government, a decision on the future shape of local government in Suffolk has been delayed for a couple of months.

If you believe that, then you'll believe we're in a shallow recession and everything will be rosy by the time the daffodils are poking out of the ground!

This week's announcement that the bureaucrats in Whitehall can't decide on what to do about the county's councils for another couple of months is the final nail in the coffin of a process which has caused more trouble than it is worth.

The whole process has been a monumental foul-up from day one.

It's been marked by indecision, muddled thinking, and bureaucratic incompetence of the worst order.

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Don't believe this is another delay - it's the death knell for the proposal.

Suffolk County Council is due to have elections in June next year. The government cannot possibly have time to totally reform local government and get the elections organised in two months' flat.

What has happened is that when ministers and bureaucrats started looking at all the proposals to re-order councils in the region - and this decision covers Norfolk as well as Suffolk - they bottled it.

Having looked at the situation they decided it was just too difficult a decision to reach so they did what all cowards do and put off the decision again . . . and again . . . and again.

Now we'll be left with the stale old two-tier system spluttering on for another decade until some other government minister has the bright idea to try to sort it out.

Just like John Gummer in the early 1990s and Ruth Kelly and Hazel Blears, they'll probably finally decide that Suffolk and Norfolk are too obdurate to work in any other political system!

But this time around what has the exercise achieved?

It's left local authorities at each other's throats as officials and councillors from Ipswich and Suffolk have spent the past two years sniping at each other when they weren't being downright rude about each other's authority.

Had the process come up with a genuinely new system of local government in Suffolk that would have been very good news - single-tier authorities where everyone knows who does what would have made a great deal of sense.

But the cowards in Whitehall couldn't stomach offending the Ipswich Labour Party who were terrified by the prospect of having to go canvassing in Kesgrave.

The London bureaucrats dare not tell Suffolk County Council that it would no longer have any say in Ipswich.

And they could not bear to tell people in Newmarket and Mildenhall that their local issues could be decided by people in Woodbridge and Leiston.

So they funked the decision and wasted millions of pounds. But I suppose the indecision kept some pen-pushers in work while the rest of us have been worrying about our jobs!

PROTESTERS who brought Stansted to a standstill might have irritated some people hoping to fly off to Gdansk or Tampere.

They might have made Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary go red with anger.

But I'm one of those who reckon they're heroes - not zeroes.

This government's devotion to the idea of expanding airports is crazy - and totally inexplicable when it spends so much of its time talking about combating climate change.

What it should be looking at is developing alternatives to flying - for instance building more high-speed rail lines to link British cities and to link us in with Europe more.

Building more airport capacity to attract more planes and getting more people flying is sheer environmental and economic madness.

Plane emissions may only be a small proportion of greenhouse gases at present, but if the government has its way this will increase substantially over the next few years.

And what is the point in telling you and me to buy more fuel efficient cars if they're telling Mr O'Leary and his ilk to go out and buy more planes because they're going to increase airport capacity?

If any good does come out of this recession, I hope it will be that people realise that unfettered consumption is not good for them . . . or the planet.

And unfettered consumption doesn't just mean buying the newest Ipod or flat screen telly - it also means jetting off to Barcelona for the weekend because the beer's cheaper there or jetting off to Prague because your wife won't know what you do in the massage parlours there!

So three cheers for the protesters. If I was 30 years younger, I'd be tempted to join them!

AMERICAN elections are different to those here - we all know that.

This week I heard from Labour agent John Cook who spent the last week of the campaign drumming up votes for Barack Obama in Ohio.

The result of the election for congress in the district he was working in had just been declared - four weeks after the polls closed.

What would David Dimbleby make of that in a general election here?