Genuine localism can never be realised until and unless central government gives up its 100 per cent control over all tax sources in the UK. This is the call from a group of distinguished academics: Professor John Stewart, from the University of Birmingham, and Professor George Jones and Tony Travers from the Department of Government at the London School of Economics.
Local government finance must be rebalanced so that local authorities, instead of receiving the bulk of their revenue from central grant, obtain it from taxes levied on their local voters and where the rate of tax is determined by the council. Without this fundamental rebalancing, local government will remain dependent on the whims of central government, the academics contend.
Professor John Stewart and his colleagues make the points in an article, Genuine localism – the way out of the impasse, in a report by the Public Management and Policy Association, Redefining local government, due out in April 2011.
For genuine localism, central government must make seven reforms, Professor John Stewart and his colleagues advocated:
Tony Travers said:
‘Councils cannot appeal to their voters for tax revenues to finance local services they might have wanted to maintain. This reduces councils to little more than central government’s delivery arm, rather than real government for local communities’.
Other contributors to this report are Dominic Campbell of FutureGov, Colin Talbot of Manchester Business School and Daniel Ratchford of the London Borough of Sutton.
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2. George Jones is an emeritus professor of government at LSE, where he was Professor of Government from 1977 to 2003. He served with John Stewart on the Layfield Committee on Local Government Finance (1974–76).
John Stewart is an emeritus professor at the University of Birmingham where he was Director of the Institute of Local Government Studies and Head of the School of Public Policy.
Tony Travers is director of LSE London, a research centre at the London School of Economics. He has been an advisor to a number of Parliamentary select committees and was a member of the Audit Commission from 1992 to 1997. He is a board member of the New Local Government Network and a member of the research board of
the Centre for Cities. He writes and broadcasts in the national media about local government and public finance.
3. PMPA’s report, Redefining local government, is published in full at the beginning of April 2011.
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