Councils should become federations, says Marco Biagi
Writing in Holyrood, the former minister put forward a new vision for local government
Marco Biagi - photo credit: Scottish Government
Former Local Government Minister Marco Biagi has stated that by the end of his ministerial tenure he had become persuaded that a model which would turn local authorities into "something resembling federations" could be the way forward.
Writing exclusively for Holyrood, Biagi said that new legislation could bestow "additional responsibilities" on subcommittees of councils, allowing them to "assume the role and title of town councils".
He said: "Thus, one set of councillors would exist, but would sit at two levels, with more decisions taken at the level of their ward or the collection of wards that make up the town they live in.
Biagi said: "Bureaucratic reorganisation would be minimal. It is an incremental solution in an area of government where only incremental solutions seem to have any chance of enactment.
"A commitment to that effect made its way into the 2016 SNP manifesto, so there is no question of having the mandate, if there is also the desire."
Biagi continued by saying that without action, local government in Scotland will "carry on through inertia, retaining the arrangements sketched out by Tories at the fag-end of a tired government long starved of whatever paltry stock of legitimacy it had ever had".
Looking ahead to May's local government elections, he said: "The Labour-SNP dynamic that bizarrely took constitutional politics into the level of government with least constitutional influence may be replaced by SNP-Conservative.
"While Holyrood shows that may well entrench constitutional politics even more, there is at least a possibility that genuine ideological debate about the size and role of the state may come to be a significant divide in councils.
"If nothing else, this alone may draw further attention to whether these structures are now – or were ever – fit for purpose and make their modernisation a cause a government would consider urgent enough to demand the investment of political capital, even with the most limited of resources."
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