ANOTHER VIEW : Walsall on the front line

Share
Related Topics
New councils are usually attacked for not carrying out their election promises. It seems that Walsall's Labour council is being criticised for doing precisely what it said it would do.

Part of the problem is that our critics are presenting their own version of Labour's policies. Unison accuses us of Thatcherite policies, while Walsall's Conservatives describe us as left-wing. Small wonder there is confusion. Against this background, our policies and the reasons for implementing them are ignored. Perhaps this is what our critics are after.

Tony Blair has stated that Labour's priority in local government is to ensure that resources go not to bureaucracy but to front-line services. He has advocated "a new form of politics where the people themselves are trusted to make decisions". These are key issues on which Labour went into the Walsall council elections in May. Our manifesto stated that existing council bureaucracy - traditional departments, headed by a director - will be redundant. Often departments take on a life of their own, standing like separate tower blocks with little intercommunication. The public gets confused, councillors express amazement, but departments retreat to saying, "But we've always done it this way."

Whole tracts of public services are now managed by remote, unelected and unaccountable quangos or have been privatised. We believe greater trust must be placed in Walsall people to share in decisions about services affecting their quality of life, through directly elected neighbourhood councils, within a framework which takes account of the law, the need for strategic decision-making and effective financial management. The council has no intention of abolishing itself or abdicating its responsibilities. Council-house tenants can make decisions about how their estates are managed. Our proposals extend these opportunities to all residents. Walsall already has a network ofneighbourhood offices, copied by virtually every council in the country. In future, neighbourhood offices will accommodate staff responding to a whole range of needs - way beyond housing matters.

Whenever change is suggested there will always be a reaction. Criticism has been fuelled by only one of Walsall's town hall unions: Unison. The key to its dispute is the demand for "a written guarantee that there will be no future compulsory redundancies as a result of their (Labour's) reorganisation plans". Councils attempting to give this kind of "jobs for life" guarantee have found it impossible. It would be irresponsible for Walsall council to pretend it can guarantee what it cannot guarantee.

We hope the wild accusations, personal insults and hysteria can now give way to sensible consideration of policies intended to forge a closer relationship with the public we claim to serve. To the beginning of a process that will strengthen public services in Walsall.

The writer is deputy leader of Walsall council.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Recruitment Genius: Production Operative

£13000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to a period of sustained an...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Syria's Kurds have little choice but to flee amid the desolution, ruins and danger they face

Patrick Cockburn
A bartender serves two Mojito cocktails  

For the twenty-somethings of today, growing up is hard to do

Simon Kelner
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent