Labour Leader of Milton Keynes Council, Cllr Peter Marland, has welcomed the decision by Scottish voters to stay in the Union, and has said it is time that more power was given to local authorities and citizens.
Yesterday Scotland voted by a margin of 55% to 45% to stay in the United Kingdom. However all three Leaders of Westminster parties had agreed to transfer more powers to Scotland, even in the event of a “no” vote.
That has led to calls from a number of people to re-think the way our political system works, and rather than small changes, the Milton Keynes Council Leader says that it is time for a radical change in how the country is run.
He is demanding some powers are transferred to Local Government in the same timeframe as the promise made to Scotland, nine months, and that more powers and funds are transferred in the longer term.
He would like to see Milton Keynes take control of more local business rates, infrastructure funding powers and measures to make it easier to build more social and affordable housing, before the General Election. He would has also called for a debate around what other powers could be taken on a more regional basis, such as health and transport.
City Leader, Cllr Peter Marland said: “It is great that the Scottish people decided to stay in the Union and that they will be getting more say over their own affairs within one, stronger nation. So what is rightly good enough for Scotland is good enough for Milton Keynes and Local Government.
“What the huge turn-out showed is that when people are given a choice they believe they have a real stake in and can have an effect on, they vote. Our challenge is to re-invigorate democracy in the rest of the UK. I think the knee-jerk reaction of our MPs and the Westminster elite about just carving out an “English” Parliament in Westminster shows they don’t get it. Westminster is broken, tinkering with which MP can vote on what is the wrong answer to the wrong question. More powers for fewer people in a remote Parliament is not the solution, we need radical devolution of power back to citizens.
“The Prime Minister has pledged to grant Scotland new powers within nine months. Will he do the same for Milton Keynes? Will he allow us to keep more business rates we generate locally so we can spend them on local services? Will he allow us the ability to fund the infrastructure we need for growth? Will he allow us proper powers to help build more affordable and social housing? The question is will he give Milton Keynes what he is promising to Scotland, the power to shape our own destiny? These powers can be transferred quickly and at little cost to the Treasury.
“In the long term, working with local and regional partners such as SEMLEP, I’d like to see a discussion on what other areas we might want local powers to manage budgets for such as health, transport, major infrastructure projects and even education. It is a debate we must have to bring politics back to grass roots level.”
He concluded, “Last week Milton Keynes took the step of becoming a Co-operative Council. That means we want to put power back into the hands of the citizen. Imagine what MK could do if we were given the powers locally to make changes and deliver growth rather than being dictated to by a Westminster elite who simply don’t get it. It’s time we had power in our own hands.”