Who is accountable? Giving power away in a centralised political culture

We are all localists now.

So starts a new research report by IPPR exploring the political consensus around decentralisation and the barriers to achieving it in practice – Who’s accountable? The challenge of giving power away in a centralised political culture.

The researchers asked a representative sample who they regarded as accountable for the performance of public services. Across a range of services – health and policing, for example – no matter who is charge, the public placed responsibility firmly at the feet of government. However, in other cases – such as education and transport – accountability is more diffuse. Why?

The report considers a number of factors, but of particular importance seems to be good communication. When power is devolved, the lines of accountability must be made clear. The examples of devolution in Scotland and public transport make for interesting case studies in this respect.

However, in the report the authors write:

… ministers may be more inclined to give up powers where lines of accountability are clear and when they can be reassured that once they’ve let go, the public, the media and the oppoistion will accedpt that responsibility rests at the local level.

I do think the authors should have spent longer considering the important influence of party politics and media representation, alongside that of public attitudes and perceptions, in order to get the full picture.

Otherwise, it is an interesting and well set out piece of original research.

Getting Together with Transport for London

I quite like Transport for London’s ‘Together for London‘ network site.

The idea instinctively appeals to me. I used to live in London and, when I moved there, I was surprised by the lack the manners on public transport and the reticence of passengers and staff to intervene. Now, I’m moving there again and I’m not looking forward to the commuting; any campaign to improve the experience of using London’s transport system would be warmly welcomed.

First off it’s a OK looking site, with a decent, if conventional architecture. There are some general styling/display issues that will get sorted in time, no doubt. I’ve got a bigger problem with the avatars. I wonder if people aren’t just a bit tired of creating avatars. I can see what they are trying to do, and I like the idea of the avatars and campaigns being brought out of the site and on to the bus, train or bike lane, but the quality is too low and I don’t think there will be many people rushing out to wear their avatar t-shirt. ‘Naf’ is the word that comes to mind when I see the avatars and the design concept – looks a bit like kids were forced to design the site for a school competition.

I think I will use this site. I intend to follow an contribute to some discussions and campaigns, I may even start my own. But I will be on the watch for this descending into an all-out grieving-post. Two things will stop that happening, responsibility for both falls to TfL.
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