Headlines: July 17th, 2009

Central government is accused today of having sucked money, decision-making and independence out of local communities. A new report written for the Centre for Policy Studies by Antony Jay, who was the co-author of the BBC’s ‘Yes Minister’, says this has led to “the bureaucratic nightmare of 21st century Britain”.

In ‘A New Great Reform Act’, which is published today, he says the current system is as wrong as it was 200 years ago before the first Great Reform Act. Citizens, he writes, have to deal with an absurd range of institutions.

Examining the question of how to control Government bureaucracy he says the textbook answer is that this is done by voters and their elected representatives but he adds: “The truth is that one vote in a general election every five years is powerless against the imperial instincts of the great armies of politicians and bureaucrats whose hands operate the levers of power.”

He argues that the growth of physical mobility and the rise and spread of the media have led to the system of Government being out of line with natural group sizes so that people are being governed by an “almost unaccountable political class who are even further out of touch with the interests and wishes of the British people than were the rural aristocracy two hundred years ago.”

Citizens, he says, have to deal with institutions ranging from departments and councils to licensing authorities and tribunals and he adds: “Almost all of these transactions could be carried out at the offices of his city township.” What is needed, he says, is another Great Reform Act.