Empowering Local Communities
Decisions are often best made as close to the people they effect as possible.
We advocate a radical transfer of power from Westminster to local authorities, thereby enabling citizens to more greatly tailor their community to their wishes and needs, much more effectively than a remote central government ever could.
We would like to see the powers that were devolved to the Scottish Parliament in 1998, devolved to counties throughout the UK. These would include for example – health, housing, education, criminal justice, planning, the environment and sport.
From the point of view of individuals and families, these areas of government are essentially local concerns, not national. We care less about the performance of the NHS nationally, and more so locally in our area. We care less about available housing nationally, more so locally. We care less about crime nationally, and more so locally in my home town or village where my family and I live.
For example, we support the localisation of policing thus far, specifically in the form of elected Police and Crime Commissioners. However we would go further and charge them with the task of determining sentencing guidelines and the placement of sentenced offenders in prisons.
We should delegate areas of truly local government and local concern downwards to local authorities. Decisions will be more reflective of the particular issues in those areas, more likely to bring about the required change, and citizens will have an infinitely greater say over the shape and character of their community at the ballot box.
Transferring power downwards – enriching communities and local democracy
Many responsibilities should rightly remain at the national level, such as defence and national security, foreign policy, fiscal and monetary policy, employment legislation, trade, immigration, constitutional matters, transport and energy for example.
Local Sales Tax – Making Councils self-funding and more independent
VAT is complicated and expensive to administer as it is charged and reclaimed numerous times throughout the supply chain, whereas the LST will be charged once at the point of retail.
While VAT is an EU tax code, we will be free to replace it with something else once we have left the European Union, thus one of the major drawbacks holding this policy back over recent years will simply disappear.
The Local Sales Tax policy in this form was originally proposed by Douglas Carswell and published by the Adam Smith Institute in 2004.
We advocate the scrapping of VAT and replacing it with a new tax called the Local Sales Tax (LST). Set by County Councils and charged when buying local goods and services, all revenue would go directly to County Councils.
County Councils should be entirely self-funding and have the power to raise and lower their own taxes. They should become truly responsible for their own spending decisions, rather than receiving a range of government grants that effectively directs decision-making.
A real choice would be on offer at the ballot box, local elections would become a much more meaningful affair and local democracy would be enriched.
One party could advocate for example raising this tax to fund increased spending on local services, while another advocates lowering it to encourage more consumer spending within the local economy.
This would also introduce tax competition between neighbouring areas and thus a downward pressure on the tax in general. If the Local Sales Tax were set too high, customers might shop elsewhere for a lower price!
At the same time it would be perfectly reasonable for especially deprived areas to receive a government contribution on top if deemed necessary.
We want to substantially empower local government so ultimately citizens have a greater say in shaping their home community, and granting elected Councils greater financial autonomy is a key step towards this goal.
Local councils can often be as detached from the people and dominated by party self-interest as Westminster is.
We demand openness and transparency at all times so residents have a rightful stake in the shaping of their community.
Councils and elected councillors have a duty to their constituents to keep them properly informed, to consult directly with them on major issues, and to work with them openly and honestly when things go wrong.
Councils have often made secretive arrangements behind closed-doors, sometimes riddled with conflicts of interest, and deliberately handled in a way that is out-of-reach of the scrutiny of backbench councillors and local residents.
We argue that inside every council throughout the country the “cabinet system” of government, which facilitates the kind of conduct described above, should be abandoned in favour of the “committee system”. This will lead to, and does lead where it is practised, greater openness, transparency and collaboration between all duly elected councillors and local residents.
Two heads are better than one. Insisting on a maximum degree of openness, transparency and consultation on major local issues, does not merely bring about a more democratic community, but also a more effective body of government.
Standards and ethics -Local residents demand transparency and accountability
Case in Point – A lack of openness and accountability in local government
In January 2014, Canterbury City Council experienced a severe backlash from local residents and a serious crisis ensued.
The sheer remoteness and insensitivity of the Council, on a range of issues, led to a public head-on collision with local residents when they stubbornly refused to listen and work with their concerns. Most notably, the Council ignored calls to halt an 18 month trial ban on vehicular traffic passing through Canterbury’s famous Westgate Towers, despite clear and extensive feedback that reported serious disruption and harm to local traders.
Senior members of the Foundation Party Debbie Barwick and Councillor David Hirst, were key players in the campaign that in the end succeeded, not only in delivering the wake-up call that Canterbury Council needed, but also in changing their very system of governance.
The previously adopted executive system was subsequently changed to what’s known as the committee system, which essentially brings about less secrecy and more openness and transparency throughout backbench elected Councillors and local residents.
Co-founder of the Foundation Party Debbie Barwick giving an impassioned speech at Canterbury Council arguing for more accountability in local governance.
Local residents should have their say on major decisions via referendum
Major planning decisions that permanently alter the core definition and character of a community should be decided ultimately by the people of that community.
The introduction of long-term infrastructure with wide-ranging implications such as incinerators, wind turbines, solar farms and extensive housing developments, often on green belt land, are clearly irreversible decisions that cannot be undone at the next election.
These sort of major changes to a local community, often absent from local election manifestos, must be put to a direct vote as the last step in the approval process.
We advocate a greater say for the people over the shaping of their home community, and a legally binding veto over proposed major and often permanent alterations is a basic component of this rightful control.
Founded by grassroots campaigners, we are working to establish a new political force offering a genuinely alternative way forward for the country for the consideration of the people.
With politics so detached from the people, we are pro-Brexit and want radically empowered citizens. We especially value and vow to fight for national self-government, freedom, liberty and democracy.
Promoted by Gerald O'Brien, the Party Chairman, on behalf of the Foundation Party both at 71-75 Shelton Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2H 9JQ.