"The English people believes itself to be free; it is gravely mistaken; it is free only during election of members of parliament; as soon as the members are elected, the people is enslaved; it is nothing." So wrote Rousseau of our system of parliamentary representation. It is to address this sense of absolute disenfranchisement in the years between elections that Hazel Blears will today announce plans to give local people a say over local
budgets. Democracy, the new Communities Secretary will tell the Local Government Association, "should be a daily activity, not an abstract theory". Three cheers to that sentiment. The plan is apparently for a series of pilot pojects which will give local voters the chance to express their views directly on specific spending proposals. So no referendum on the repackaged EU constitution, then, but local votes on wheely bins and park opening hours. Well, it's a start.