The Think Tank, Reform Scotland, has proposed a reorganisation of local government in Scotland to reduce the number of councils from 32 to 19. Although the very local 1,200 community councils would be given more power.
Their paper, Renewing Local Government, also proposes devolving more power to councils. The 14 health boards, the eight police boards, and Scottish Enterprise would be abolished with their functions handed to councils. As in England there would be referendums to allow directly elected mayors. Each council could choose whether to have a Council Tax, a local Income Tax, or a Sales Tax.
There would be localism over planning policy. Councils would be free to reject development – but if they agreed they would retain the financial benefit of the increased tax base. Councils would retain the Business Rates they collect, with their grant from Holyrood being reduced to make this cost neutral in the first year. Councils would no longer be forced to work together to write Strategic Development Plans.
Reform Scotland’s Chairman Ben Thomson said:
“It is clear from the recent disappointing local election turnout that we have to take action against the erosion of local democracy in Scotland.
“Britain is a heavily centralised nation. Devolution has been limited, and it has stopped at Holyrood. Indeed, the Scottish Parliament has reversed devolution by sucking up Council powers. This has to stop. For Scotland’s good, we’re calling on everyone to work together to renew local government.”
You might have thought that councils would welcome having power transfered to them. But COSLA, which is supposed to represent Scottish local authorities says the proposals are "disappointing."