Panchayati raj, English style (or not)
Recently, I have been reading a bit about India, in particular the panchayati raj envisioned by Mahatma Gandhi. Here in Oxfordshire, we have two tiers of local government: first, a county council; then, a city council surrounded by 4 (rural) district councils, which is a kind of a panchayat. (Note that the district and city councils are independent, not subordinate to the county council.) But as it stands, the political colours in the urban are in stark contrast to that in the rural. For example, none of the city and county councillors elected from the city are Conservatives; almost everywhere else, the Tories prevail. This pattern is replicated in the MPs returned.
For this and more important reasons, the City of Oxford is applying for unitary authority status, extricating itself from the two-tier system. One of the most important reasons is that there would be no more bucks to pass by councillors of a unitary authority: “Highways? That’s the county council’s business!” would not be a valid excuse anymore. The Green Party of England and Wales states in its Manifesto for a Sustainable Society:
PA300 Our preference will be to abolish the County Councils after the transfer of their present functions to District Councils and to confederations of Districts. […]
In Massachusetts, the counties have mostly atrophied. Around San Diego, where I used to live, the county remains, but there is also a confederation of local authorities, of sorts.
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