Cut number of MPs says leading Essex Tory

Members of Parliament have been described as the “highest paid local councillors in their area” by a leading Essex Tory who says they should also be used more effectively in town halls.

Graham Butland, Essex County Council cabinet member for devolution said deep-rooted devolution reform was needed to give local authorities substantial tax-raising powers – such as local sales taxes.

He added there were too many MPs, many of whom should instead attempt to win seats on local councils with “real tax raising abilities.” He added currently only communist China had a more centralised system.

Cllr Butland, who has been embroiled in legal challenges over the Home Office’s decision to house asylum seekers at RAF Wethersfield in the district was responding to a motion calling on central Government for more substantial council funding properly.

In Essex, the funding deficit gap is expected to be £19m in 2024/25 rising to £75m by 2026/27.

The motion urged the Government “to take steps to address the financial challenges faced by local authorities, and to halt the long-term decline in council service provision”.

However, Cllr Butland said meaningful devolution was the only way local authorities could become financially secure. The emerging Greater Essex devolution deal text has largely been agreed upon and is in its final draft. Under the Level 2 deal, there would be a new Greater Essex Combined Authority (CCA). This would mean the three authorities of Essex County Council, Thurrock and Southend will make collective decisions about the power and budget given to them by the Government.

But Cllr Butland told Essex County Council full council on December 12 said he would like even further reform.

He said: “We are talking about reform. What we need is less central government, and fewer members of parliament, many of whom I refer to as the highest-paid local councillors in their area.

“They need to be put where they should be – which is probably in places like this with real power, with real tax raising abilities. I am greatly in favour of local sales taxes etc.

He added: “We tug our forelock at national government. National government has a role to play in defence, in foreign affairs.

“What I have always been proud of is the role we should have in local government close to the people and able to make decisions.

“What we want is local government by local people and less national government interference.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter