Plans to give more power to local residents as part of the Localism Bill have been shelved by the government.
A local referendum scheme was due to be employed within the much-maligned bill – allowing small communities to vote on issues that affected their immediate area.
However, fears over expense and openness to extreme groups saw the collapse of the project.
Councillor John Bruton, Cadley, thinks the idea of local referendums simply wouldn’t work.
“It’s not a question of whether we need it but would people want it?
“I think referendums could have had an impact on specific issues because if something motivates a community and it is something that affects them massively then it would be a mechanism.
“But in general terms, the local referendums wouldn’t be a solution to the underlying problem, which is a disinterest in local democracy. That’s the real thing we should be dealing with.
Cllr Bruton believes that small numbers of people can have a big effect on local politics.
“Small numbers of people abusing these referendums could’ve been a problem,” he said.
“The risk is that you’ve got a few people wanting something and others not caring.
“If people took an issue and drove forward with it while others were sitting on their hands and remaining silent then you could have a few people dominating.”
And he admitted that a lethargic public attitude will always get in the way of localised reform.
“If you look at the amount of people who vote in local elections then you’ll realise that the majority of people aren’t that interested in it.
“They don’t see the relevance to their lives and to be fair they might be right in some sense. Local government doesn’t do that much that affects them that deeply. It does on specific things, like planning issues, but in general people don’t feel that local government is actually that relevant to them.
“I’m not undemocratic but just a bit jaundiced about how local politics work at the moment.”
Photo by EEPaul on Flickr