Cheque in the post

7th April 2000 at 01:00
THIS Government was supposed to be supportive of local government unlike its predecessor. But despite most councils being in Labour control, the Labour-led Executive in Scotland is proving as hostile as the Tories.

First there were the recent funding allocations which penalised some councils and rewarded others without anyone being able to penetrate the thinking behind the decisions. Ring-fencing on behalf of central government is imperilling core education services.

Now we have the Executive lamely following in Gordon Brown's footsteps by deciding to put a cheque in the post to every school instead of channelling money through coucils which know the differing needs of their schools. Each council has its priorities and is encouraged by central government to exercise autonomy.

Schools, of course, are not going to protest. Indeed they may quietly cock a snook at the councils, though the sums involved will buy them very little room for independent manoeuvre. But the national message being sent out is that a government born of devolution has very little idea of how, in turn, to practise it. Reviewing the financial relationship with councils and ensuring fairer votes will be tests of the Executive's attitude.

Robert Thomson

Clarkston Road, Glasgow

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