Moves to ’empower’ councils are welcomed in Moray

MOVES TO EMPOWER local councils in Scotland have been sparked amid claims that local democracy is being eroded by central government.

Reports this week have suggested that Reform Scotland, the leading independent think tank into Scottish civic life, is to call for reform on how local government is financed.

In a national news report on Monday, Reform Scotland director Geoff Mawdsley said: “Local democracy in Scotland is severely constrained because councils have insufficient power to do what they would like to do and are, therefore, not genuinely accountable to local voters.

“In large part, that is because local authorities have almost no control over local taxation. If we truly believe that decisions should be made closer to those whom they affect, then we need to rejuvenate local democracy.”

The move is being welcomed by the Scottish Green party, whose local government spokesman said: “Reform Scotland’s contribution is well timed and well made.

“In November, I led a Holyrood debate on local democracy, in which SNP and Conservative MSPs disappointingly voted against a motion endorsing the final report of COSLA’s cross-party Strengthening Local Democracy commission.

“In parliament I have argued for a fiscal framework for local government, reform of local taxation and will be consulting shortly on incorporating the European Charter of Local Self-government into Scots law.”

Moray Greens convener James MacKessack-Leitch last night insisted that increasing centralisation has had a detrimental effect on the region. He said: “There’s a very strong feeling in Moray that genuine political and fiscal power should be in the hands of local communities.

“Instead we’ve seen increasing centralisation that undermines the council and the services they deliver.

“If Green Councillors are elected in Moray this May, we’ll fight hard to revitalise local democracy, pushing for every community to have a say in council budgets, and for the council to have full control over the powers they used to have, as well as campaigning for further powers to be brought to a local level.”