The MJ diary / endpage / gossip column last week had a little bit of fun, presumably at David Cameron’s expense, and noted the apparent similarity between the following two quotes.
- “Through a new general power of competence Councils will be able to do whatever they like as long as it’s legal“
- “We shall give a power of general competence to all local authorities to carry out whatever activities are not expressly forbidden by statute“
The first was recently said by David Cameron in an article in the Guardian. The second is from the Labour Party’s roaringly successful and widely praised 1983 Manifesto. I’m being silly really, obviously I think it’s a good idea. I thought (hoped) it was what the Government had almost done with the power of wellbeing and associated rules, but recent events suggest the battle is at best half-won.
For completeness, I thought it worthwhile remembering what the Government of the day thought about those plans – that John Denham has not yet said anything like this could be counted as progress I suppose, although I anticipate there are many in the Conservative Party who still feel this way, and will surface if the national and local swing operates in the traditional British way.
“In other words, a blank cheque. A socialist council could spend your money on anything it liked unless there was a law forbidding it. I leave to your imagination the crackpot schemes, the waste of money and the gigantic leap in expenditure” – Margaret Thatcher, 3rd June 1983
Of course in the same speech she talked about the importance of central government driving local government structural reorganisation. What price Eric Pickles’ pearl handled revolver then? Who knows, perhaps as a humble committee member on Bradford Council he was quite favourable to the abolition of the West Riding, perhaps not!