One of the side issues to the Scottish independance debates is over the fact that England does not have a devolved government. Policy areas in England such as health and higher education are dealt with by the “Union” government in Westminster, but in the other kingdoms they are the responsibility of the devolved assemblies. Many people are asking “why can’t England have a devolved parliament?”
Let me be clear: I am not calling for a devolved government merely because everyone else in the playground has one. Rather, I believe that the time may have come for a radical shake-up in how we run the country.
Let’s look at a policy area: highways. At the moment highways are the responsibility of individual counties. If I were to drive from London to Carlisle I would pass through a number of counties and over a number of grades of road, depending on how well the counties maintain them. A reasonable expectation would be that the roads are built to the same standard throughout the country. So let’s form an English parliament, and give it the policy areas over which, nationally, we expect the same standard.
Now programmes such as schools and libraries. Very often they are at the centre of a community, so let’s keep them run by the community. Because of the size and complexity of some of these programmes let’s merge districts and counties into county councils, and derive some of the benefits that scale can bring.
Finally parishes. Parish councils exist mainly in rural areas and act as community forums, perhaps running local parks and village halls. Let’s extend that concept into our towns and cities, and have parishes that can build and hold together communities.
Currently we have four (ish) layers of bureaucracy. I propose that we retain four: just run government smarter.