I’ve been reading Eamonn Butler’s The Rotten State of Britain and greatly recommend it. It offers a wide ranging sweep across our country’s ills and the gloom of the title is balanced by an eagerness to offer radical solutions as one would expect from the Director of the Adam Smith Institute.

The section of local government is a trenchant demand for localism: "Three quarters of what local government spends comes from central government and three quarters of what they do is what central government tells them to do." By operating as "agents of the national government" rather than "servants of the local citizens" councils focus on the targets and directives coming out of Whitehall. Local pride is "killed off" and the priorities of local resident, a clean environment, neglected.

Butler says:

"Low turnouts have nothing to do with any decline in public spirit: Britain can’t really be faulted in that charge. No, low turnouts in local elections are perfectly rational behaviour as far as the general public are concerned – because they know that whoever they vote for, it is unlikely to make a quantum of difference."

He adds:

"Go to many other countries across the channel and the streets are cleaner, there are flowers and benches and less litter and graffiti – not because French and Germans are genteel and cultured and we are just filthy oiks, but because their systems encourage a much stronger emphasis on the quality of life in the local area."

Is Butler right?