Letters - What choice really means

Would your Supplement on the future of public services (4 October) have been different with a local politician on the panel, or fewer middle-aged white men in executive positions?

The panel had fallen for the current fashion of theorising choice in public services as something centrally prescribed, rather than created locally by politicians who are then voted in or out of office on the basis of those choices. Most of the discretion and nearly all of the incentives to make choices that do not fit in with central programmes have gone - such as building council houses, taxing supermarkets, or having schools which do not follow the national curriculum.

By turning local government into the management of centrally prescribed services, we are killing off the local branches of political parties, and preventing people from having any direct influence on policies that affect them. Real local choice means a much more controversial, less centrally directed and more radical local politics - which local people can campaign for and vote for.

Andrew Coulson
Birmingham

This article first appeared in the 11 October 2004 issue of the New Statesman, The gambler