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

Financial Controller

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is a busy and varied role w...

Maths Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Maths teacher require...

KS1 Teacher

£21500 - £31500 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to work...

Java Developer - web services, XML and API

£330 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Lond...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Cyclists v the rest of the world – can we please call a truce?

Philip Hoare
Brooks Newmark  

If Brooks Newmark is ‘sick’ what does that say about the rest of us?

Simon Kelner
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style