Local democracy is not all potholes and bins

David Rudlin

Quality architecture and placemaking need respected, well-resourced, self-confident local government, says David Rudlin

By the time this is published the European elections will have rendered the local elections a distant memory, but this is a monthly column so bear with me. Throughout the run-up to and analysis of the local elections earlier this month we were constantly told they were all about Brexit rather that local issues like “potholes and bins” and that hard-working politicians who had been dealing diligently with said potholes and bins were being unfairly punished for the sins of their national parties.

Well if my daily cycle ride to work is anything to go by, austerity has put paid to any comprehensive action on potholes. Until, that is, they threaten to swallow a bus. And bins: they haven’t been a political issue since we were all given recycling bins 10 years ago. But no, no: I’m falling into the same trap!

The point is – are we really saying this is all local government does? What about social services, education, housing policy, transport and roads, environmental health, community development regeneration and planning? Do these things not matter? I realise that local authorities have been denuded of powers and responsibilities but they are still incredibly important. They no longer, for example, run most schools or own their council housing but they still control access to school places and social housing. In terms of the day-to-day life of most people most of the time they are at least as important as national government and certainly about a lot more than potholes and bins. It is massively condescending to refer to local government in this way and plays into a wider trend of councils being marginalised and dismissed as irrelevant.

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