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On Integration, Consolidation, Reorganisation, etc...
"We trained hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams,
we would be reorganised.
I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganising, and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progresswhile producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralisation."
Caius Petronius, AD 66

With the benefit of a almost two further millennia hindsight, your respondent would only add "delay",
the bureaucrat's universal friend.

Central Government Agency staff are far too often charged with the care of disparate sites
and projects so widely scattered that it is difficult, if not impossible,
to become properly intimate with many of them.

Many try very hard.

In Central Government Agency culture, environmental assets (including 'communities')
are most conveniently dealt with in the abstract,
with reference to the details contained in filing cabinets (or magnetic cyberfiles)
at arm's length.
Site visits seem rare
and even more rarely to involve the carrying out of practical work.
Resident care is exceeding rare.
Documents abound and their number multiplies in direct relation to the distance
(in miles as well as organisational tiers)
between central office and the local asset.

Central Government Agencies generally operate to priorities, policies, & agendas generated and developed at national level, with varying degrees of 'adaptation' to local conditions.
Of its very nature, 'National' thinking is predominately urban/office/document based.
The career structure is largely colonial, where
movement towards the centre is regarded as advancement.

It is questionable how this can relate to rural realities, where movement towards home is an advancement. More diffucult, but infinitely more worthwhile..

How local is local government?

A few words in favour of Local Government

With regard to local government, it can be argued that Scotland has achieved a remarkable degree of efficiency, as compared to most other Western-style Democracies. (see table below)

Through almost three decades of effort in reorganising, re-designing and refining the structure of local government, we have got the number of individual Authorities pared down to a commendable minimum. This has been achieved by rationalising the previously disorganised mish-mash of Counties, Parishes, Towns & Boroughs, each with their local idiosyncracies, into a single, unified whole.

Few people now living can remember or imagine the difficulty central governments of the past had to face in their efforts to control such a mess, but thanks to the unstinting efforts of scores of experts we now have units of local government purpose-built according to a template designed for efficient administration. Each of these units has, in its turn, with the help of still more expert advice and consultation, designed and established smaller 'community' councils as an aid to said administration.

It is commendable that central government has shouldered a much larger proportion of the still substantial financial burden of the new arrangements, relieving the lower levels from the difficulty of raising all but a fifth of the necessary funding to carry out local administration. Strict financial control, according to centrally agreed criteria also ensures complete financial probity from the highest level to the lowest.

In order to further increase the financial and administrative efficiency of the new arrangements, there are proposals to reduce the number of councillors, as it is felt that a council with seventy-odd councillors is relatively cumbersome. Although it does require a certain number to serve on the necessary committees, it may still be possible to further reduce the number of elected representatives and the financial savings may be significant.

While achieving such efficiency, the process of reorganisation has not neglected to consider the need for local employment. On the contrary, according to the European Partnership in our own region (for want of a better word) the largest employment sector is government work. Urban areas, being essentialy easier to administer, with fewer problems may not yet have achieved such admirable levels, but we are assured they are working on it.

Choosing a name for the new larger local unit might have been expected to present difficulties, but "Dumfries & Galloway Council" seems to have proved acceptable to many, and we can't expect to please everyone, can we? Some re-design of stationery was needed, generating further local employment, no doubt.

How local is local government?
Scotland compared to other democracies according to Scottish Office research:

  Number of Population Size Relative to Index of Local Democracy
  Authorities per Authority Scottish average (Scotland=100%)
SCOTLAND 32 160132 100% 100%
New Zealand 70 46729 29% 343%
Ireland 92 41190 26% 389%
Japan 3245 37200 23% 430%
Portugal 275 34180 21% 468%
Sweden 284 30249 19% 529%
Australia 836 19114 12% 838%
Denmark 273 18811 12% 851%
Netherlands 800 17860 11% 897%
Belgium 589 16740 10% 957%
Finland 460 10770 7% 1487%
Norway 448 9421 6% 1700%
Germany 8846 8845 6% 1810%
Italy 8074 7019 4% 2281%
USA 35800 6600 4% 2426%
Canada 4238 5594 3% 2863%
Spain 8027 4700 3% 3407%
Austria 2304 3000 2% 5338%
Luxembourg 126 2905 2% 5512%
Switzerland 3000 2122 1% 7546%
Greece 6022 1827 1% 8765%
France 36757 1560 <1% 10265%
Iceland 222 1100 <1% 14557%

(Left two columns from "The Constitutional Status of Local Government in Other Countries" commissioned by the Scottish Office Central Research Unit;
Right hand columns calculated therefrom) ISSN 0950 2254         ISBN 0 7480 7841
Scottish Office 10/98 (rather hard to find!)

For those who are interested, the Commission on Local Government and the Scottish Parliament has been appointed by the Secretary of State for Scotland with the remit:
to consider how to build the most effective relations between local government and the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Executive; and
to consider how councils can best make themselves responsive and democratically accountable to the communities they serve.

The Commission is to present its final report to the first Minister of the ScottishParliament, when that person takes office.

Comments on any of the questions raised in thier papers are invited from any interested bodies or members of the public. They should be sent, please, by 14 February 1999, to: Steven Kerr Commission on Local Government and the Scottish Parliament Area 3-H Victoria Quay Edinburgh EH6 6QQ (tel.0131 244 7047; fax 0131 244 7058) or by e-mail to

Some more information on democratic alternatives:
Member states in Federal Constitutions

  Number Average Population
Swiss cantons 26 248,000
Austrian Lander 9 849,000
Australian States 6 2,495,000
Canadian Provinces 10 2,533,000
Gerrnan Lander 16 4,905,000
USA States 50 5,008,000

Autonomous Regions

Greek regions 16 1,081,000
Spanish autonomous regions 17 2,142,000
French regions 22 2,521,000
Italian regions 20 2,833,000
Belgian regions 3 3,286,000
Scotland   5,100,000

(from "The Constitutional Status of Local Government in Other Countries" commissioned by the Scottish Office Central Research Unit; )
ISSN 0950 2254         ISBN 0 7480 7841
Scottish Office 10/98 Posted Jan 8th 1999

Text of letter received November 3rd 1998: Is this the shape of consultation to come??
(Comments added)
Mr. E Igglehart, South West Community Woods, North Glen, Palnackie, Castle Douglas, DG7 1 PN

Ref: AD2
2nd November 1998

Dear Sir


I write to you as a 'stakeholder' in the activities of the Forest Enterprise arm of the Forestry Commission, to explain our planned organisational changes in the Stewartry and Ayrshire. These are designed to improve our focus on the different types of forests and the aspirations of local people in south west Scotland. (Were local people asked? This is the first we have heard of it!)

Until two years ago the Forestry Commission forests of the Solway, Galloway Forest Park and in the southern part of Ayrshire were managed from three Forest District offices.

To enhance our effectiveness in Galloway Forest Park, the Ayrshire forests were joined with those of the Stewartry and have been managed from our office in Castle Douglas since 1996. These arrangements, and our continuing outstation office at Straiton, have been such a success that we now propose further to reorganise our arrangements as follows: (Can you run that by me one more time?...It's working so well, you want to turn it inside-out?)

The Solway forests around Dalbeattie and west towards Kirkudbright will be managed together with Mabie from Ae, Dumfries. (distance between forest and office: status quo: 11km max; proposed: 40km minimum)

The forests around Gatehouse of Fleet, Laurieston, Corsock, New Galloway and Dundeugh will form part of a new Galloway Forest District based at the existing office at Newton Stewart. This includes The Bennan, Fleet and Clatteringshaws forests. (distance between forest and office: status quo: 15-25km max; proposed: 25-50+km )

Carrick forest of south and east Ayrshire, including the woodlands around Loch Doon, will be managed from our existing Straiton office as part of the Galloway Forest District.

Kyle forest, to the north and east of Dalmellington, will be managed from Straiton as part of a new forest district encompassing the Scottish coalfields.

We hope to be able to demonstrate over the coming months that our staff will be able to focus more clearly on the market and social benefits of the distinct forests in the three areas concerned.

The present intention is that the new Galloway Forest District, which will manage the whole of Galloway Forest Park, will start work in April 1999. Dalbeattie Town Wood (to be managed from 41km distance - some 'town wood'!) and the other Solway forests (even further away) will join with Mabie to be managed from Ae from the same date, whereas the local presence in Ayrshire at Straiton will be strengthened. The Castle Douglas Office will finally move to Newton Stewart during September 1999. (i.e. removed from the heart of the most forested area to its periphery)

These changes will not involve much upheaval for most of our staff (One gets used to it pretty quickly, working for a distant colonial power!)as they will not need to move home.(this time) Although there will not be an office in Castle Douglas we will still be 'on the ground' and, of course, contactable at Newton Stewart.

We will operate on the basis of 'business as usual' up to and after the changes in April next year. You should not notice much difference in your dealings with us, except that the teams concerned will be able to concentrate more on 'your kind' of forests. (For the life of me, I cannot see how this follows, or what is meant!)

If you have any comments or suggestions I would be pleased to hear from you at any time at the above address.

Yours faithfully
_______ _____
Forest District Manager

If this is the shape of increased community involvement to come,
God help us!

Please note: The above observations are my own, influenced by experience, reading, listening, conversation and correspondence with others. My experience is limited in all areas, and some generalisations may seem sweeping, or even presumptuous. No offence to corporate entity, human or otherwise is intended, but should any be taken, it is from myself and no other. - E.I.

"I heartily accept the motto,
"That government is best which governs least;"
and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe--
"That government is best which governs not at all" and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.

Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient. The objections which have been brought against a standing army, and they are many and weighty, and deserve to prevail, may also at last be brought against a standing government."

Henry David Thoreau

"But it is not by the consolidation, or concentration of powers, but by their distribution, that good government is effected. Were not this great country already divided into states, that division must be made, that each might do for itself what concerns itself directly, and what it can so much better do than a distant authority. Every state again is divided into counties, each to take care of what lies within it's local bounds; each county again into townships or wards, to manage minuter details; and every ward into farms, to be governed each by it's individual proprietor.

Were we directed from Washington when to sow, & when to reap, we should soon want bread.
It is by this partition of cares, descending in gradation from general to particular,
that the mass of human affairs may be best managed for the good and prosperity of all."

-- -- Thomas Jefferson

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