These days we
often hear complaints about the 'Post-Code Lottery' which decides which
services are available to citizens living in one particular region of
Britain as opposed to another. Yet where we live is not the result of a
lottery, and the services that are provided in a particular locality
are decide either by local or national government or local or national
institutions that have been in their turn created and maintained by
local, regional or national political action.
Now that we have a measure of devolution for Scotland, Wales and
Northern Ireland we will no doubt be faced with an increasing number of
issues where there is a difference of opinion as to whether standards,
services and the allocation of resources should comply with local,
regional, national or European minima, maxima or averages. Since the
only possible justification for the devolution of power from Whitehall
to subsidiary political control is to allow difference in the choice of
financial priorities, it stands to reason that any individual, family
or 'tribe' which finds itself at odds with prioritisation decided by
their local democratic majority have only three options: to accept the
situation, to take personal or collective action within the law to
establish or obtain private facilities to fulfill their needs, or to
relocate to a place where the democratic majority shares their opinion.
The policy move outlined
below by BBC News will not, therefore solve any problems except
for Whitehall. It will dump the problem right in the lap of the local
voters. This is the considered reaction of government and the civil
service to complaints by the electorate that government 'does not
listen'. "Sort it out for yourselves then" is in effect the response.
Voters will then discover that different localities will vote for
different priorities, leaving some to complain of a Post-Code Lottery
on yet more issues..
people given budget power
People in England will have a direct say in the priorities for
council budgets under new government plans.
Communities and Local Government Secretary Hazel Blears will
announce pilot projects in 10 areas later.
Residents will decide on how budgets of up to £23m are spent,
from recruiting more police to providing play areas.
She will make the announcement at the annual conference of the Local
Government Association (LGA), which has questioned public desire for
It will be Hazel Blears' first major speech since taking over from
Ruth Kelly following Prime Minister Gordon Brown's reshuffle.
Under the plans, large amounts of council spending would be decided
residents, through local debates, votes and public meetings.
Although similar projects have already been run on a
smaller scale with community grants, Ms Blears will say the idea will
be extended to cover major parts of local council funding.
| Democracy should be about much
more than casting a vote every few years
People will be able to choose whether they want to spend more money
services like extra community safety wardens to tackle anti-social
behaviour, new play areas, cleaning up parks, or extra CCTV.
Ms Blears will say the aim is for every neighbourhood to have
control of a "community kitty" within five years.
The LGA, itself under new leadership, believes it would be better to
devolve the money to frontline councillors who could consult on how the
money was spent in their wards.
Ms Blears, herself a former councillor, said it was not about
"bypassing councils", but aimed at getting local people and the
She will tell the Birmingham conference that, as well
as delivering a real shift of power to town halls, the government of Mr
Brown will ensure it is also passed on to local communities.
"Democracy should be about much more than casting a vote every few
years," she will tell the conference.
"It should be a daily activity, not an abstract theory. Local
people know the needs of their area better than anyone."
The 10 pilot areas are Merseyside, Nottinghamshire, Birmingham,
Lewisham, Bradford, Salford, Sunderland, Newcastle, Southampton and St
Ms Blears told the BBC that it had already been tried
in Bradford: "It was really interesting... they had a lot of young
people coming together and they thought 'are they going to vote to
spend everything on young people?' and in fact after a big discussion
they actually voted to spend some of the money on services for old
people as well."
There are those who claim that their birth is an accident, and that
where they find themselves residing is not of their making, yet at the
same time they have certain inalienable rights. There is no logic in
this claim. A failure to
understand the reality could lead to the logical conclusion that an
individual could claim damages for being born in the wrong place..Our rights and duties
are arrived at by mutual agreement or by hierarchical imposition,
depending on the historical record. They have to be mutually provided
and maintained over time. If we accept that human beings are able to
choose their actions, then the act of procreation is a choice. We can
see today in some of the world's most troubled places, where standards,
rights and duties are fundamentally disputed, that the very possibility
of dialogue and the compromise we call democracy is rejected and
individuals choose death - the death of others, the death of their
selves by suicide, the ultimate decision that life is impossible. In
some parts of Afghanistan the lot of women is such that many are
committing suicide by self-immolation.
The Post-Code Lottery paradox, which UK citizens see as an unacceptable
imperfection in our luxurious national health system, is but a shallow
reflection of the global paradox that lies at the heart of the foreign
policy choice that faces the entire developed world. The decision to
intervene where the failure of society in a state leads to anarchy,
genocide, civil war and in some cases a nest for terrorists. The UK-US
position has been decided. It is no longer possible to stand back and
let the chips fall where they may. It is now up to the rest of the
developed world, in which I include Europe, Russia, India, China,
Japan, the Commonwealth and others, to decide to back the UK-US stance
now and long term or face the consequences.