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Whitehall boss orders inquiry into erosion of democracy

Gus O’Donnell, head of the British civil service has ordered an inquiry into the Government’s localism reforms and growing concerns that its “big society” plans risk eroding the basic democratic principles of transparency and ministerial accountability, according to the Guardian.

This is a pretty exact echo of the issues that are concerning many about Suffolk County Council’s new strategic direction. Yesterday Woodbridge councillor Caroline Page wrote about Suffolk Tories “riding roughshod over democracy“. I linked to her post and added some of my own doubts about the council’s claim to democratic probity.

The Guardian reports:

There are fears by those at the top of Whitehall that parliament’s fundamental right to hold the government to account for its actions is being tested by the scale of the coalition’s ambitions to devolve power from the centre to local communities and outsource services to charities and the private sector.

Gus O’Donnell, the head of the civil service, has asked a senior colleague to investigate the democratic impact of the government’s localism bill, which is intended to end Whitehall’s domination of the political system and devolve power to local people.

One of the problems we have is that there is no Suffolk official to make a similar investigation. On Monday evening I asked Andrea Hill, the chief executive of SCC whether her role was akin to that of a civil servant or traditional council chief or whether she initiated policy. She explained her role and did not deny initiating policy.

So locally we have no officials like senior civil servants to raise and examine such issues.That is a further democratic deficit.

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