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Thursday, 8 April 2010

2. Local Parliaments

This was one of the three ideas I put forward in my essay in the original SOLACE pamphlet (pdf). Put simply the argument is that if the parliamentary system is good enough for national government then things should work the same way for local government.

At the national level the UK parliament consists of a house of commons and a house of lords - at the local level local council meetings could mirror the role of the house of commons although nothing similar to the house of lords exists.  My suggestion is to set up a stakeholder senate which would give all the interested local agencies, forums, community groups and other relevant bodies a voice within the local government process.  the role of the stakeholder senate would be to act as a check and balance in the same way as the House of Lords does.  The function currently carried out by parliamentary select committees is already more or less carried out by council scrutiny committees so not much change would be required there.

One of the main differences between UK local government and national government (and the governments of Wales and Scotland for that matter) is that whilst national governments feature a legal separation of powers between the executive (aka Cabinet and the Government) and the non executive (aka Parliament) there is no such separation for local government.  This means, amongst other things, that the same set of local government officers support both sides, whereas nationally different civil servants work for the government and for parliament.  Interestingly a recent report for the Welsh Assembly Government has recommended that a similar kind of legal separation should also apply at the local level.

The idea of a local parliament might capture the public imagination much more that local council meetings do now.  Especially if local parliaments were able to pass local laws.


Philip Whiteman said...

I am planning upon organising a seminar on How to Rejuvinate Full Council to tie in new ideas around local parliaments and civic arena for the INLOGOV. There are some great points raised in this article.

Keep up the good work

Philip Whiteman

Dave Mckenna said...

Thanks Philip - I'll keep an eye for the seminar and look forward to hearing any ideas from it. Dave

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