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?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you familiar with the sayin...

Recruitment Genius: Hospitality Assistant

£6 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care organisation take pride in del...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker

£6 - £7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care organisation take pride in del...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Protein World advert displayed in an underground station in London which says  

Protein World’s advert 'not offensive'? Try telling that to the 70,000 people who signed the petition to ban it

Anna Cafolla
A Palestinian child screams in pain at the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip after she was hit by shrapnel during an Israeli military strike near her family house  

As a surgeon who worked in Gaza last year, hearing that 511 Palestinians died after their ambulances were obstructed doesn't surprise me

Ghassan Abu Sittah
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most