Thursday, April 29, 2010

Gutting local democracy

Today the government introduced a new Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill, aimed at re-focusing local government on "core services". Much of the bill is technical and shifts legal obligations around long-term community plans to one place. But it is also aimed at "remov[ing] unnecessary consultation" and "leveling the playing field to better enable the private sector to deliver local authority services". The former limits the community's say in that long-term community plan - basically, we will no longer be allowed to have an annual say in what our councils will do, instead being limited to triennial choices between competing members of an elite (the ACT/Peter Shirtcliffe model of democracy). The latter of course is a licence for the wholesale privatisation of local government services such as water, waste, and libraries. Which, thanks to the removal of consultation requirements, we won't be allowed to have a say on.

The government of course will try and claim that this is "not privatisation", because it is not dictating that councils sell their assets and privatise their services. But that's pretty obviously what it wants them to do. Their wealthy donors are clearly getting a solid return on their investment.

Meanwhile, the government's policy of secrecy around Regulatory Impact Statements has hit a new low. While the bill includes URLs to both Treasury and Internal Affairs, neither actually has the RIS up yet. So much for transparency.