Cabinet Call with South Holland District Council Leader Gary Porter
Last week the referendum in Scotland dominated the news and as a member of the Conservative and Unionist Party, I am delighted that Scotland has voted ‘No’ and decided to remain as part of the Union.
However, this result does not mean ‘no change’.
In pledging significant extra powers for the Scottish Parliament during the campaign, the leaders of the three main Westminster parties repeatedly acknowledged the principle that decisions which affect people’s everyday lives, their jobs and their businesses, are best made close to where they work and live.
This is a principle which must apply equally throughout the UK.
Now that Scotland has voted, the devolution question for England, which has been ignored for so long, cannot remain unanswered.
Whilst I and many other people will be making the case for an ‘English Parliament’ I think the Government must go much further and build on the success of the Localism Act.
This has delivered more effective and cost efficient services and improved public satisfaction with how their council performs.
Now is the time for a further radical decentralisation of power to local government.
On the basis that the new powers that will be offered to Scotland in the coming months must also be given to every local area elsewhere, councils are ideally placed to deliver across a range of policy areas.
Councils are already supporting the economic recovery by promoting local growth, helping to reduce youth unemployment through local schemes, getting local people onto the housing ladder and supporting the Government’s reforms to integrate health, social care and welfare reform.
However, if we were to be given the powers which Scotland is being promised, we know that we could do so much more.
Especially if we were to receive similar financial freedom such as much greater control over aspects like business rates – for far too long the people of South Holland have had to subsidise places like Glasgow or Liverpool.
Councils in England are just as ambitious for their local communities as the devolved government in Scotland.
We deserve the same powers and responsibilities to allow us to deliver real change locally.