The Conservatives have criticised Hazel Blears’ "Community Empowerment" White Paper for "ripping up laws designed to protect local taxpayer".
One element of the White Paper proposes "to provide incentives for voting in local government elections", such as by prize draws. The previous Chairman of the Councillors Commission, Dame Jane Roberts, suggested in a report that this could involve taking California’s lead in offering free doughnuts and vouchers for chicken dinners in return for voting.
The White Paper also proposes that:
- Guidelines which prevent taxpayers’ money being spent on partisan propaganda by town halls should be torn up. A survey by the Taxpayer Alliance last December has already warned that publicity spending by town halls has soared to £450 million a year.
- Anti-corruption rules which restrict council officers from also being councillors should be weakened. Such rules were drawn up in the 1980s to stop local civil servants becoming politicised and conflicts of interest. The Labour Party is currently struggling to find candidates to run in local elections.
- Plans for remote voting. Councillors will not have to turn up at meetings, being able to vote and participate in meetings "remotely" instead, making it easier to hold down multiple jobs on top of the councillors’ salary.
Eric Pickles said:
"These policies are the product of a bankrupt Labour Party, wanting to
stuff more cash into the pockets of Labour councillors, bribe their
voters, bring back jobs for the boys and slip in back-door state
funding. Conservatives will fight these plans and stand up for the
interests of the local taxpayer.
Councillors have a valued role to play in holding town halls to
account. But rather than these highly partisan measures, if the
Government was genuine about local democracy, it would hand back the
powers that unelected regional assemblies and Whitehall quangos have
seized from local communities."