Letter: Unitary councils: power to central government, loss of the citizen's role and a fight for jobs

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The Independent Online
Sir: The real question of local government in England is whether we need it at all. Eighty per cent of the money spent by councils comes from the Exchequer - the rest being raised by unpopular poll or property taxes. The Government directs most of the activities of councils.

The services you get and the taxes you pay should depend on your needs and means, not on where you happen to live. It is extremely unfair that neighbours pay widely differing taxes because they happen to live on different sides of a borough boundary. Equally, it is wrong that the quality of public services varies from place to place according to the whims and prejudices of councillors.

Moreover, it is an illusion that councils are effective agents of strategic planning. Whitehall sets the parameters; councils only fill in the detail. If communities elect councillors who do not accept government plans for development, local planning decisions are simply overruled on appeal.

Not only is local government a waste of money, it is a smokescreen for central government - which is largely responsible for underfunding of local services and unpopular planning policies. Local government officers would work just as efficiently if they were civil servants.

Local councillors are unnecessary. Without them, democratic accountability would be via the minister and Parliament and the quality of local services would be an issue in general elections - the only elections that either matter or receive much public interest.

Yours faithfully,

ROGER KNIGHT

Cuxton,

Kent

25 April

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