Robin Millar is the Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee in Forest Heath District Council, West Suffolk. His consultancy is focused on local government and he blogs regularly for his ward and his business.
Let’s start with a quick review of some facts.
The 410 local councils in England and Wales spend over £70Bn a year. Not small change. Executive Members in a modest primary authority will be responsible for budgets exceeding £100M, across several parliamentary constituencies. Most MPs will never be able to say that, even in power (what they will say is that they envy the ability of even a determined back-bench Councillor to deliver quick and effective change for their community).
This summer, 207 of those 410 Councils were under Conservative control. Nearly five times the number in Labour control and more than eight times those controlled by Liberal Democrats. Have central government controls and hypothecation reduced Members to managers? Perhaps, but they can only do the job before them – and their community entrusted every one of those Members with that job.
The simple truth from these ‘polls that count’, is that people trust the Conservatives in their communities with power over day-to-day issues more than all the other parties combined. The number of Conservative councils has increased over the last decade not just as a reaction against Labour, but because they govern well and deliver better services at a lower cost.
These are firm shores from which Conservatives should be launching more than just personal and Party parliamentary ambition.
Conservative Home is thoroughly readable but my hope is for a different tone to this new local government blog. The posts and discussions here should not just imagine power, or think about power, or plan for power – or even bemoan a lack of power.
They should wrestle instead with defining Conservative governance: crackling with descriptions of what Conservatives do with power, how they are leading better, serving more and improving people’s lives today.