The Price of Local Government

AuthorLaurence Welsh
Date01 January 1972
Publication Date01 January 1972
DOI10.1177/0032258X7204500110
SubjectArticle
LAURENCE
WELSH
Government Correspondent
of
The Police Journal
THE
PRICE
OF
LOCAL
GOVERNMENT
It
is possible, though I think mistaken, to suppose that the Police
Service is cushioned against the malign economic forces which
impose severe limits on the other public services. There are some
grounds for such an optimistic view. The fifty-fifty sharing of police
costs between central and local government is an assured arrange-
ment unlikely to be varied as
part
of a possible recasting of the local
government financial system. The police have been given special
treatment when incomes policy has involved harsh restraint on
pay levels elsewhere. If local authorities incline to parsimony in
their outlay on the police they are deterred by the thought that their
income from Whitehall will be correspondingly lower and by the
insistence of the Home
Office
on minimum standards.
Nevertheless, local government finance concerns police officers in
their capacity both as policemen and as citizens.
Though local council spending policy is less liable to be curbed
by economic considerations in the police field than in others, it is
not
entirely unaffected: outlay on police buildings, materials,
equipment and other items will be less generous in times of stress,
even if cuts are less drastic than elsewhere. In his professional
capacity, therefore, the policeman has an interest in lessening
difficulties confronting the authority which finds half the cost of
the service.
As a citizen his concern is perhaps even plainer. He wants the best
schools and other facilities for his family, a good library, swimming
pools, well maintained roads and all the other amenities which
councils provide to standards always circumscribed by financial
stress. He wants a go-ahead authority, able and willing to spend
on worth-while services which benefit him at work and at home.
For
these reasons, the current discussion on the reform of local
government finance deserves consideration here.
Englishmen are said to pay their rates in anger and councillors
fear that this may be so extreme as to jeopardise their prospects
of success at the next election. They are wont to plead their
"duty
to the ratepayers" as a reason for trimming or rejecting needed
improvements.
They should be reminded that their duty is not limited to ensuring
local government on the cheap: they should also see thattheir services
January 1972 81

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