Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Writing the leader column

The last thing I did before leaving the office tonight was to write the leader column for tomorrow's Leicester Mercury. Unlike most national papers we don't have a specialist opinion writer and it is usually written by me or the deputy editor, Richard Bettsworth.

You may have noticed from various previous posts on this blog that I am currently exercised by an uneasy feeling with the way things operate in Leicester and tomorrow's opinion column reflects this.

Here's a sneak preview:
It has become increasingly clear over recent days that the scandal surrounding MPs’ allowances is not simply going to fade away. The anger expressed by voters everywhere demands fundamental change. Tory leader David Cameron continues to attempt to wrestle the initiative away from Gordon Brown by suggesting changes that he hopes will restore some confidence in Parliament. Today he has suggested moving power away from London back to local communities.

On the face of it, we would support such a change. Too much local policy is effectively set in Westminster by the Government issuing public targets for local councils and then using funding threats and restrictions to force the local authorities to comply.

However, many local councils have a pretty poor record when it comes to openness and changes in the way they operate over the past decade have meant that more and more decisions are taken behind closed doors ...

All councils pay lip service to open government. They all claim that they are transparent and that local voters can see for themselves how decisions are made, but actions often do not match the rhetoric ... If Mr Cameron is going to send more power back to our local councils, he will also have to reform they way they work.
I'll try to blog soon on the difference between the newspaper's opinion column (the newspaper's stance on a given issue) and this blog (the Editor's opinion on various issues), especially as they will often, but not always, be similar.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think that David Cameron's comments are purely about gaining momentum in the media now.

    In 2007 David Cameron told a delegation of local government politicians including myself and David Parsons of the need for devolution of powers down.

    It is a principle he believes in at all levels from the EU down. At a Conservative Local Government Conference later in 2007 he also told councillors it did not stop there, that they needed to pass powers down too, to local people where possible.

    The case is true that local government needs more; the cabinet model has imported clear decision making from parliament but without the cross examination of select committees (yet). That would be a start for us in Leicester, and one we do not need to wait for a new national government for.


Thanks for commenting - all comments are moderated, but will only be blocked if they are foul, abusive or libellous. Keith