Presumably the number of people "who feel they can influence decisions in their locality" might best be increased by actually listening to the concerns of people, and placing the issues which they worry about at the top of the agenda, rather than by according those issues less importance than something which they don't really care about one way or the other.
Violent assaults and serious antisocial behaviour are lower priorities for councils than stopping people smoking, town hall targets showed yesterday.
Despite a government poll showing community safety was voters' overwhelming priority, anti-crime initiatives will not be the main focus of authorities.
Details published yesterday by Hazel Blears, the Communities Secretary, set out the targets picked by each local authority — and agreed by her department — to be their future priorities. While performance will be measured across the whole range of 198 indicators, targets will be set only for the 35 chosen as top local concerns.
Jobless 16-18 year olds, reducing teenage pregnancy, providing housing, protecting the environment and cutting child obesity were the five selected by most councils. While reducing “serious acquisitive crime” such as thefts from cars was sixth, cutting the rate of “assault with injury” was 13th and domestic violence 20th.
Considered a higher priority than both by most councils were stopping smoking and boosting the numbers of local people “who feel they can influence decisions in their locality”.
The local targets are agreed with central government after consultation with bodies such as local police, health service and jobcentres.
Alongside the new targets, Ms Blears published a YouGov poll, commissioned by the Government, showing that 82 per cent of respondents considered “creating safer communities” among their top priorities.The councils that do best at meeting their chosen targets will qualify for extra cash.
But, of course, dealing with crime and anti-social behaviour might prove to be rather difficult. By contrast, in the present political climate, smokers are a remarkably soft target, and cutting levels of smoking (which, in my opinion, are not a matter for local government, anyway) is a remarkably easy challenge. Indeed, since the number of smokers is already in steady decline, it may be quite possible for councils to do nothing and still hit their targets! Perhaps that explains the claim that preventing people from lighting up every now and then is more important than preventing people from mugging one another. Or perhaps this rather bizarre ordering of priorities simply testifies to the prevalence of nanny statist attitudes among our political masters, national and local. Either way, it's idiotic.
Hat-tip: Julia M