Monday, October 16, 2006

Tories and devolution of power to local bodies; can you believe it?

Here are a couple of ‘letters to the editor’ about one of my current hobbyhorses. The first was in Saturday’s Guardian Review (did you spot it?):

In his review of Simon Jenkins's new book ("The sofa ascendancy", October 7), Douglas Hurd endorses the case it makes for "the transfer of power to a revived local government". Perhaps he's forgotten that Thatcher, the book's subject, took power away from local government because she couldn't trust it to use it wisely. How would Hurd or Jenkins devolve real decision-making power while avoiding that favourite Tory cliché, the "postcode lottery"?

And this one was in the Gloucester Citizen a little while back (the Forest is the Forest of Dean, Mark Harper is its MP (and supporter of Liam Fox)):

The Forest's Conservative MP seems to have forgotten that his party's policy is to devolve decision making in the health service to local bodies. You report that he's concerned about differences between waiting times for his constituents registered with Welsh or English GPs

Minor variations are bound to occur if decisions are being made locally. Does Mr Harper want to return to the situation where all decisions are taken centrally by bureaucrats in Westminster? Is this another change of policy by the Conservatives?

Tory MPs have voted against all the improvements and extra money which Labour has put into our health service. Mr Harper himself stood for election just over a year ago with a manifesto promising to cut Labour's spending plans.

If his party had had their way in Parliament, Forest people, along with everyone else, would be waiting even longer for treatment now than patients had to in 1997 and our nurses and other health workers would still be being paid pitifully low wages.


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