I read Francis Maude’s recent County Times column (Horsham edition) with interest. In it, he talked about the forthcoming general election, and stated that he would not be venturing opinions on ‘matters which fall within the councils’ responsibilities’.
Reading between the lines, this is an obvious statement that he does not wish to get involved in the discussion of the North Horsham development, as well as a number of other issues of local importance. However, I would like point out that many issues, while decisions are taken locally, are driven by national policies that come from Westminster.
Planning policy is driven by Eric Pickles’ Department for Communities and Local Government, who are responsible for the proper operation of the planning process. We saw their influence recently, when the planning inspector stated that 2,000 more homes were needed in the plans for the next few years; this pressure comes from central government. The DCLG are also responsible for the operation of local councils and transparency; given the secrecy and lack of trust in Horsham DC, it seems they could be doing a lot better.
Decisions on fracking sites are made locally, but the licences are granted centrally, and Mr Maude surely cannot deny that the government is pushing it very hard indeed. Similarly, Gatwick expansion will be a massive issue locally, but is most definitely a central government decision.
The decisions about local health services will be taken outside Westminster, but the financial cuts and push towards privatisation are coming from on high, as Mr Maude has discussed in his own columns before. Add to that the reduction in central funding for essential council-delivered services like adult social care, and you can see that there are very few areas of local policy where central government does not have a role.
I agree that as an MP, Mr Maude’s role is not to get involved in council decision making, as that would undermine local democracy. However, I hope that he is not hoping to avoid local issues entirely, as so many are driven by the policies of his government, and we deserve to know how their proposals for the next government will affect our communities in the same way. After all, every national decision is local somewhere.
Horsham Parliamentary candidate for Something New, Greenfinch Way, Horsham