I was watching Michael Portillo’s Power to the People , which was on over the weekend and he was advocating giving more power to local people and also for increased accountability. Not sure if Michael’s become a Liberal Democrat but that’s what we’ve been saying for years. I almost fell off my sofa when he even advocated “a local sales or income tax” to replace the council tax (Portillo was famously the Minister in charge of implementing the Poll tax).
Lib Dem measures to empower local people would be:
- Local authorities to have the ability to set their own local income tax (in place of council tax) and keep the revenue.
- Local authorities to set their own business rates, not have it set nationally, and also to keep the revenue.
- Locally elected health boards and police authorities so these services deliver what you need.
- Allow local people to have a say in planning decisions and have the right of appeal.
- Protect local shops and pubs, by cutting the business rate if they are the last one in the village.
- Ability to sack your MP if they have done something wrong. Power should be in the hands of voters at all times, not just on Election Day.
I met with the council last week to discuss economic development for Bromsgrove, specifically the High Street and Technology Park. After speaking to numerous business owners as well as constituents it is obvious that not enough is being done.
The recession has been tough for businesses all around the country and Bromsgrove has been affected.
However, the decline in the High Street and the lack of development on Bromsgrove Technology Park has been around before the recession.
Business rates are fixed by central government but the Liberal Democrats would allow local authorities to control business rates and give them another tool to build up local commerce.
However, the MP and local council can do more to promote Bromsgrove and its connections to the rest of the country.
For example there should be conferences/events to attract businesses to Bromsgrove and a proper plan to target specific types of retailers and industries. The local council could also provide better support to local independent entrepreneurs who are looking to start a business whether in retail or industry. A recession is a time to work even harder, not just use it as a ready made excuse.