Local councils now make as much as, or more than, they raise in Council Tax from charging for parking, swimming pool use, school meals, and various other things that should be provided for free or there is simply no point in their being provided by a public body.
Councils need the power to raise their own business rates, perhaps a modest local property tax rather than the wickedly unfair Council Tax, and certainly a local tax on land value (and thus encouraging good use of the land itself) and a flat annual fee for registration as a local elector (which might therefore be made voluntary). That last would be dealt with through the benefits system on behalf of the very poor. And all these sources of revenue would be free of presumptive capping powers, which would be unconscionable in any other country, on the part of vastly more profligate and irresponsible central government.
Yet it seems that even the Lib Dems are giving up on local government, today proposing directly elected Health Boards of early or semi-retired middle-class busybodies. Or Lib Dems, as they are otherwise known. Like New Labour and the New Tories, the New Lib Dems seem utterly convinced that even the slightest spending anywhere between central government and the patient (or pupil, or whatever) is “waste”, and that we all want lots of “choice” in the NHS.
But I have a different idea about health policy: why not have a good general hospital within easy reach of everybody’s home, and administered within the local democratic process? It’s just a thought.