THE resignation of Keith Barrow is not just a very serious affair in Shropshire. It is an example of the steadily declining standard of local government, degraded steadily by the Conservatives ever since Mrs Thatcher's contempt and mistrust of it. Local government's history goes way back, at least to the Elizabethan Poor Law in 1600, and the creation of county councils in the 19th century. 
This British institution has been copied worldwide. The speed of its decline grows as financial limits and outsourcing weaken it. It has been a solid base for our democracy, giving scope for local talents to be employed voluntarily to run local affairs, a really big Big Society in fact. Democracy was practised locally and we were educated in what that means by it playing out in our local areas before our very eyes, assisted by the local press. Local officers in their departments were respected for their work. Giving Whitehall more and more decision-making left councillors with less and less, and many able people no longer consider it a role worth doing.
We trumpet democracy about the world, a panacea to replace alternatives, but I fear we are failing to recognise how important the practice of it is locally, vital if it is to flourish. When did the government make the case for the running down of local government and get our permission?
Old Street