Sell drugs at school - get paid £1750 by Torbay council!
A couple of weeks ago the newspapers were full of the shocking story that an expelled school pupil was likely to be given £1750 by Torbay council.
This ‘penalty’ payment was to be made because the local education authority were unable to find him another school immediately after he was expelled from Churston Grammar for drug dealing. During the few weeks he was without a school the council didn’t send him a home tutor. The Council will make the payment because the Ombudsman has ruled that they have to.
At the heart of this outrage is the fact that Councils are increasingly not controlled by locally elected councillors, but by a growing army of inspectors and ombudsmen who have the power to force councils to do what the Government (or rather, John Prescott) wants whether local people support them or not.
Around 80% of the money given to councils by the Government is ‘ring fenced’ for uses that the Government has decreed. This can be to an amazing level of detail – so that funds are available, for instance, to build new school buildings but not to repair the existing ones and spend the difference on books, extra teachers or playing fields.
The Government have learned that they can force councils to do their bidding; Labour are bullying local people to pay more in Council Tax and forcing their elected representatives to spend the money they way the Government want and not the way local residents need.
This is a big reason why local politics often ends up in petty and futile squabbling over procedure instead of useful, meaningful argument over local issues – because a lot of the time the local politicians have become powerless.
I hope that our leaders frequent commitments to return power to local communities is backed up by firm policies before the next general election that actually do so.
That is certainly what I will be working hard to achieve.