It is always disconcerting when a â€œshameless authoritarianâ€ like David Blunkett comes out with a generally agreeable idea. Take his latest attempt to get himself back in the headlines (yes I am that cynical when it comes to him) for instance:
â€œInstead, city regions based around core cities including Birmingham should be allowed to make their decisions on policy regions such as transport and training.
They should also be allowed to raise their own funding, with more control over council tax and business rates, and the freedom to raise extra funds from sources such as congestion charges.â€ [Via icBirminham]
Sounds good doesnâ€™t it? For all his faults (and there are quite a few) London’s Mayor Livingstone presides over democracy closer to its people. More democracy widely and fairly distributed is a good thing so why not have it in other British cities?
Ideally I liked to see all major cities in Britain with devolved power, giving local people more say over their lives. I think itâ€™s a good thing and something that should be supported but, and thereâ€™s always a â€˜butâ€™, its success depends on the engagement of local peoples. This last part gives pause for thought:
â€œLeadership is always vital. It’s often given by politicians in whatever structures, and where it isn’t there are, on occasion, paid chief executives who fulfil the role, or attempt to fill the vacuum.
“So, we need to develop leadership at community and neighbourhood level.â€
What does developing leadership at a community and neighbourhood level mean in practice? If this comes to pass how will the community tensions of last year be squared with the recent guff about integration? Would introducing more democracy mean greater social/community cohesion or would it turn into higher tensions as local groups fight for more sway?
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Filed in: Current affairs,Race politics