The national calamity we don’t hear about – the death of local democracy | John Harris

Cuts and closures underline the flaws of a system dominated by Westminster’s power. From health to schools to housing, we need an urgent rethink

‘We cannot survive as we are beyond this next financial year. There is no money. I am not crying wolf. I never cry wolf.” So says the Conservative leader of Torbay council, in Devon: a local authority that delivers the full range of services but can no longer function at even the most basic level.

After years of bone-crunching austerity, by 2020 it will be faced with another £12m of cuts – so the most obvious option is to downgrade itself to a district council, hand over its most essential work to the bigger Devon county council, and hope for the best. Whether this will improve anything is an interesting question: since 2010, in real terms, Devon’s funding from government has been cut by 76%.

Related: How can we protect our libraries from closure when the council ignores us?

Related: Council cuts are putting the vulnerable at risk, Tory peer says

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