You can all have a say in your own community

Central Beds councillor Richard Stay, executive member for external affairs and councillor for Caddington, on why he thinks decisions on how taxpayer cash is spent should be made locally...

WE spend more than £4 billion of taxpayers’ cash in Bedfordshire every year!

The Government has talked about strengthening local communities and transferring powers away from Whitehall for some time, but in reality what will change?

I believe decisions should be made as locally as possible. That means shifting real power away from Government – the UK is one of the most centralised democracies anywhere in Europe and the Localism Act commits Government to acting and acting quickly.

The potential for Bedfordshire is tremendous and I want to see postcode choice, not a postcode lottery. Different decisions will be made in e.g. Manchester and in Luton – priorities are different and what might be right for Bedford may differ for Leighton Buzzard.

Major services such as Public Health are coming back to Local Government, business rates will be retained locally and choices made around stimulating business and the economy.

Planning decisions are becoming a matter for greater local involvement. In my own area (Caddington and Slip End) a Neighbourhood Plan in under way and this is a hugely positive exercise, where everyone can have their say on what their communities should look in 10 or 15 years.

We have seen the establishment of an elected Mayor in Bedford – one person publicly accountable for how decisions are made.

In November Bedfordshire sees the arrival of a directly Police and Crime Commissioner, who will be the people’s voice to ensure that what the Police do is in line with local priorities. Elected by you and answerable to you, but not making operational decisions – this has the potential to make decisions made by the police visible and accountable.

Councillors are becoming local leaders with influence across a wide range of public services. Local communities are developing their own priorities and elected local politicians should be there to champion their communities along with the voluntary sector.

I am optimistic and I believe we can continue to develop more efficient and more effective public services locally and Bedfordshire police are a good example – they have absorbed a £20 million budget cut and still made a serious impact on cutting crime.

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