Local government reorganisation – a distraction?

July 9, 2020 2:08 PM
By Fiona White - Guildford Borough Council Cllr for Westborough & Surrey County Councillor for Guildford West

Cllr Fiona WhiteI have been in favour of reorganising local government for a long time. The two-tier system worked well in the past but I believe that it is no longer fit for purpose especially now that the internet makes communication so much easier.

But, and it's a big but, I have to ask why the government has suddenly seen the light just as the country is trying to recover from the Covid19 pandemic. Local councils at both levels have been in the front line of providing services to our residents. County and borough councils have worked well together. They have coordinated with voluntary and faith groups. Many officers have had to work in areas of services they are not used to. Senior staff have taken on unfamiliar responsibilities. We need to recognise how much we have relied on them, officers and political leaders, to get us through this.

Now we face a number of crises. The first is in the Care Home sector that is on the brink of total collapse. Without care homes it will be difficult for us to look after our most vulnerable people - the elderly and those with physical and mental disabilities. The next is the wellbeing of our residents and communities. There has been a rise in domestic abuse and more children have become vulnerable. We need to work at giving better life chances to all children regardless of their home circumstances. The third is the prosperity of our country and the struggle we face for financial recovery. So many businesses are at risk and with them the jobs of great numbers of people.

Add to all that the situation where we finally leave the EU at the end of this year and no deal has been agreed yet. Whatever the deal is, the radical changes are likely to be disruptive in some areas. A no-deal Brexit could have an adverse impact on our economy to add to all the other problems.

Covid 19 has shone a spotlight on the failure of governments to deal with the long-standing crisis in social care. They have cut the funding year after year but have not produced proposals for a long-term solution. It has been considered "Too Difficult" and has been kicked into the long grass.

The government should be putting all its energies into dealing with those issues.

So why decide to launch a reorganisation of local government now? Why not deal with the urgent priorities first?

My view is that this is yet another distraction in the hope that we will ignore the government's failures in other areas.

This article first appeared on Cllr Fiona White's blog https://fionawhite.mycouncillor.org.uk/