Saturday, 4 December 2010

Thanet District Council Leader, the choice is yours, or is it?

Not happy with the way the council is run?

Then you have ten days to change the way that it’s run, so don’t complain afterwards if you don’t take part in the consultation process.

The choice is a simple one:

1 Do you want to vote to elect the leader of the council? (Directly elected Mayor)

2 Do you want the councillors to choose the leader of the council on your behalf? (New-Style Strong Leader)

You can do this by email, send your answer, with your name and address, so that the council can check it against the electoral roll to make sure that can legally take part in the consultation, to Glenn.Back@thanet.gov.uk

You can do this by post, send your answer, with your name and address, so that the council can check it against the electoral roll to make sure that can legally take part in the consultation, to:

Glenn Back
Democratic Services and Scrutiny Manager
Thanet District Council
PO Box 9
Cecil Street
Margate
Kent CT9 1XZ

This link takes you to the council’s webpage about this http://www.thanet.gov.uk/council__democracy/cllrs_democracy__elections/governance_models_consultation.aspx

That’s all really, although I am going to write a lot more about this, partly because it is a very important issue for Thanet and partly because I am not so sure that this will be a fair and democratic process.

In May of next year the council comes under various legal obligations because theoretically we live in a democracy.

One of those obligations is to hold an election to select new councillors, I have no problem with this aspect of the election.

This election however isn’t like the other elections because prior to this election a new the system of government for the council has to be chosen because of the 2007 act.

Now this act stipulates that, this system of government has to be chosen by us the electors and if we choose one of these systems then it makes the May elections very different, as we would also be electing the leader of the council as well as the councillors.

There are two ways that the council can use to decide which method of government, one is an electoral referendum, this way the council would ask us to vote for which system we want to have. The council have decided not to use this method, instead they have opted to use the other way, the public consultation method to decide which system of government to use in Thanet.

I have no problem with this provided the consultation is done legally and properly and the council abide by the results of this consultation.

The problem however is that the council appear to be trying to rig the consultation, it is really a very simple consultation consisting of a choice between two options.

1 Do you want to vote for the leader of the council?

2 Do you want the councillors to choose the leader of the council on your behalf?

This is a very big decision for Thanet we either have an elected mayor, like London has Boris Johnson or we have a leader like the ones we have had in the past, chosen by the councillors.

The deadline for this consultation is the 15th of December that is only eleven days from now and you would expect such an important thing as a change in our system of government to be highly publicised well in advance.

Well the first mention I can find of it in the local papers is in yesterday's Gazette.

You would expect there to be a simple consultation on the councils website explaining the two options and enabling you to tick one of two boxes to make your choice.

You would also expect there to be some explanation of the electoral referendum, which should also be an option that people could choose.

You would also expect this consultation to appear on the councils consultation website http://www.thanet.gov.uk/council__democracy/consultation.aspx but it doesn’t.

The only way that you can take part in this consultation is by writing to the council, either by snail mail or by email.

If you read my previous posts about this http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/2010/11/new-style-of-leadership-forced-on.html and http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/2010/11/thanet-district-council-leader.html you will know that I have written to the council asking them about this consultation and it is my intention now to publish how I have been getting on with this consultation.

Please be patient if you want to read this as I have to extrapolate the information from various emails, removing councillors and council officers names and I have to sort this out between customers in the bookshop.


My initial email to the Democratic Services & Scrutiny Manager


Hi ****
I would like to take part in the Consultation on new Governance Models for Executive Arrangements, also I would like to publicise this consultation a bit more as it seems to lack the publicity one would expect.

By this I mean there doesn’t seem to have been a press release about it nor does it appear on the council’s consultation web page at http://www.thanet.gov.uk/council__democracy/consultation.aspx

There are some aspects of the consultation that appear to have been presented in a somewhat biased manner, it may well be that I have misunderstood something here so would appreciate any clarification you could give me.

The only mention I can find of this consultation on the council’s website is at http://www.thanet.gov.uk/council__democracy/cllrs_democracy__elections/governance_models_consultation.aspx if there is any consultation form or online survey about this I can’t find it.

Please could you let me know if either of these are available on the council’s website?

The main area where I would like clarification is about the difference of cost between the two options and the way in which the council would proceed if the mayoral option were taken.

It appears from what is said on the council’s website that were the mayoral option to be approved as the preferred option this would necessitate a further and expensive election.

Could you please explain why a mayoral election couldn’t take place at the same time as the May 2011 council elections?

Where is says that the council’s initial preference is for the new-style Leader and Cabinet model, what is meant by the council in this instance? By this I mean are the councillors included in this reference to the council or does this only mean some or all of the officers? Does this mean that all of the officers including yourself are unanimous in supporting the preference for the new-style Leader and Cabinet model?

It appears that in this instance the council’s main concern and their reason for supporting new-style Leader preference relates to the councils inability to remove a democratically elected mayor can you please confirm that this is the case?

In the instance of the council removing a leader does the word “council” mean the same as it does in terms of preferring the new-style Leader option?

Is there any part of the council where I could obtain impartial advice about this issue?

Will the summary of consultation responses be available on the council’s website?

If it will, then will it be available there before the council’s decision?

When will the summary of consultation responses be available for the public to view?

Please could you confirm your receipt of this email as I have had difficulties with the council’s email server in the past?

In view of the very short time remaining I hoping for a prompt reply from you, if you can’t reply today will you please tell me when you will be able to reply by?

Further notes:

My address is

72 King Street
Ramsgate
Kent
CT11 8NY
U. K.
Telephone (01843) 589500

Any information I publicise about this will not contain any officers names or contact details.


His reply

In a message dated 29/11/2010 13:17:16 GMT Standard Time, ***@thanet.gov.uk writes:
Mr ChildI acknowledge receipt pf your email, which I will reply to within thenext few days.


Regards ******
Democratic Services & Scrutiny ManagerThanet District CouncilTel: 01843 577187

my follow up email

>>> 03/12/2010 15:42 >>>
Hi *****, that appears to have been five working days and there appear to eight left before the deadline for the consultation.

I believe I did make it clear that I need the information that I asked you for to help me publicise this consultation properly.

Obviously I could go down the official complaint route here, this would be a little pointless as that ten-day period would take us to after the deadline date here.

Perhaps you think that some of my questions are unreasonable, if this is the case could you please answer the ones you consider to be reasonable.

The first publicity about the issue that I have found appeared in today’s paper, not an official statement by the council but an article by Saul Leese, as I put a small notification about this on my weblog, which I know he reads, then I assume that is where he picked it up from.

I note from the article that all three local residents interviewed were for a mayoral election.

I also note from the paper that the leader of the council has confirmed that he considers consultation on non-controversial issues to be unnecessary, does this mean that as everyone interviewed if for a mayoral election it is seen as non controversial and we will be having a mayoral election without more consultation now?

Either way it would appear that this consultation seems to have such a low profile that very few people will take part in it and because of this I would consider it to be invalid, of little consequence perhaps in terms of consultation however as this consultation effects the content of an election then presumably and election based on an invalid consultation would be a rigged election.

I also notice that the consultation doesn’t even mention the option of a mayoral election referendum, does this mean that the council wouldn’t consider going down this road?

Best regards Michael


His reply

In a message dated 03/12/2010 16:02:04 GMT Standard Time, ****@thanet.gov.uk writes:
Dear Mr Child

Thanks for your follow-up email.

I regret the delay in replying to you, but although mine is the contact name on the web page, I am not in fact "leading" on the governance consultation. I need to liaise with another officer before replying to you, but that officer has been away on a residential course for a few days, and adverse weather has then hampered the ability of that officer to return to work.

I hope to be able to reply to your points early next week, which I believe will still be within the Council's corporate standard for dealing with correspondence.

Regards,

******

Democratic Services & Scrutiny Manager
Thanet District Council
Tel: 01843 577187


My reply

Subject:
Re: Consultation on new Governance Models for Executive Arrangements
Date:
03/12/2010 16:30:34 GMT Standard Time
From:
MichaelChild@aol.com


Sorry to make a fuss about this one *** but is seems to me that the council are trying to rig this consultation and in doing so rig the election.

I have now waited a five working days out of the thirteen and you tell me that you are going to work on the ten working day response rule, during a thirteen working day time frame.

Presumably at the end of the ten days you will tell me the name of the officer I should have contacted in the first place, whose name should have been published on the webpage.

Please could you send me the contact details for that officer now?

If you had told me at the beginning of the week that you were going down this road I would have contacted the electoral commission then.

I am now taking the line that the council is trying to rig the election and will publicise this.

Best regards Michael



As you can see by this point things are getting a little heated and I have ccd the stream of email to the chief executive, leader of the council, local MP and a few other candidates.

I then received the following from the council’s chief executive.

From:
****
To:
MichaelChild@aol.com
CC:
BCC:
Date:
Fri, 3 Dec 2010 16:49

This is not an election it is a decision that will be taken by the council at its special meeting on Dec 16th. The officer dealing is ****** Head of Legal & Democratic Services *******Chief ExecutiveThanet District Council



You may think that he is being a little short with me here, but I have been a bit Difficult over the last few years, so you can concede that he has his reasons.

Here is my reply to the chief exec I have edited it a bit to keep people’s names out of it.

Subject: Te audire non possum. Musa sapientum fixa est in aure
michaelchild to Richard.Samuel - yesterdayMore Details
From:
michaelchild@aol.

To:
*******
CC:
BCC:
Date:
Fri, 3 Dec 2010 18:43

***** I appreciate your courtesy in replying, I know I am not the easiest person to deal with.

I did cc **** Head of Legal & Democratic Services the initial email, but I don’t think he is at home with email, he seems to prefer the telephone.

I did have a long chat with him about the mayoral issue about six months ago and understand his position on an elected mayor and to some extent was persuaded by him.

I would say that there is some consensus on wanting what is best for Thanet here.

The problem for me is the way that the decision is arrived at, added to which is the problem of the position of the leader if that decision is not arrived at properly and legally.

I am afraid that I am more familiar with the 2007 act than I would like to be, it was never my intention to become the council’s conscience but the other bloggers who were, have had to stop.

Anyway that aside the question of who decides which system of government TDC use is not quite as you suggest a matter for councillors to decide.

The question would then be, do you the councillors wish to vote for your leader, or do you want the rabble to?

The problem of course viewed the other way, it is another forgone conclusion, if you have a mayoral referendum then you are asking the people who vote, do you want to vote?

Now all I was asking for here is a properly run and publicised consultation, with the results of that consultation implemented.

The alternative being that I will start a mayoral referendum petition, so if you are considering sending me down this road could you please supply me with the documentation I will need to produce a valid petition?

I am assuming that it would need to correspond with the electoral roll in some way that is acceptable to the council.

In the meantime I stand by my premise that the council is trying to rig the election by rigging the preparation.
Best regards Michael


Here is the chief executive’s reply to me. As you can see I have made it very clear along the line that this information is for publication so I suppose you can call it the chief executives reply to us.

Re: Te audire non possum. Musa sapientum fixa est in aure

Details
From:
****
To:
michaelchild@aol.com

BCC:
Date:
Fri, 3 Dec 2010 23:03

Michael
I'm afraid I gave up latin at 13 so your header left me a bit cold. However the last Government left a piece of law hanging that said that councils had to make a choice about their leadership models.

The incoming government has committed to repeal that law and hand the choice back to local councils. We have been explicitly asked not to spend too much time and cost consulting on something that will be possibly extinct in 5 months or so.

Hence most councils including Thanet have complied with the law and conducted consultation accordingly and proportionally.


The 'excitement' about possible elected Mayors in Thanet or anywhere else is - dare I say it - not shared by most electors.


Elsewhere few people have responded - Ashford had one - and it is only in the big cities where referenda will take place.

Hence my point to you that this is not an election merely one of many decisions the elected council has to take. In our case that will be on 16th December. Given your interest I am sure you will be there.

There is much more detail of course but this is the gist of things.

*****Chief Executive

My reply to the chief executive:

Re: Te audire non possum. Musa sapientum fixa est in aure
michaelchild to *****- 20 min agoMore Details
From:
michaelchild@aol.com

To ***@thanet.gov.uk
CC:
BCC:
Date:
Sat, 4 Dec 2010 16:43

Hi **** sorry about the delay in replying my bookshop has been busier than expected despite the inclement weather.

Also apologies about the Latin, roughly translated it means, I can't hear you. I have a banana in my ear, it can only be excused by saying that my children take an interest in our correspondence.

I have put our correspondence on to the internet as there is also some considerable public interest in this matter.

As I said I would at the beginning of the correspondence I have removed the officers names, I hope that I have published it a way that you consider accurate and appropriate.

My understanding of the policy and intention of the present coalition government is that they with to hand local decision making back to the local electorate and that district councils are intended to one instrument for achieving this, not as you suggest a means on their own.

Could you kindly be more specific as to which act they intend to repeal? I am assuming that repealing the law is a sort of Cromwellian typo and don’t think that going into the constitutional implications of repealing laws would be helpful here.

Could you also please tell what you base your hypothesis on that: “The 'excitement' about possible elected Mayors in Thanet or anywhere else is - dare I say it - not shared by most electors”?

I should point out that the local paper only published the views of three electors and they all seemed to be in favour of an elected mayor, this is all I have to go on.

I assume you are privy to the consultation results, so far, so perhaps you can share these with me, to give me a more accurate picture of the situation.

I am interested that you say that referenda are only available to big cities, I hadn’t realised that they wouldn’t be allowed in Thanet, could you please tell me what the limiting population figure is?

I am interested that the councillors seem to unanimous in their opinion that an elected mayor is not something that they want and wonder would this preclude them from voting on the issue?

I am afraid that the council meeting coincides with my daughters Brownie meeting and I suspect you would be as powerless as I am to cancel such an important engagement, so no I won’t be attending.


Best regards Michael

7 comments:

  1. If you asked the majority of people in Thanet who was their local councillor they wouldn`t have a clue. Asking them to elect a leader is a bit of a joke.

    What views do our councillors have? It`s mystery. I know Cllr David Green dips in now and again but what about the others? Can they even use a computer?

    On a previous post you emailed Bob Bayford a question - leader of TDC - and he basically ignored you.

    B K

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hello Michael,

    There is nothing sinister going on here. It is just the case that the Council and their Officials are in the main incompetent. However they do excel in self regard. Consequently, they become irritable and nervous when questioned.

    ReplyDelete
  3. So Government has told the Council not to bother too much with a legal requirement, and our Leader has taken it a step further by deciding that we don't want to be bothered with such matters as who decides our future. Think about it, each time the powers that be chip away at our democratic rights they enhance their own powers. Maybe it's not such an important issue this time, but it's a worrying trend. An elected Mayor would be accountable to the electorate; a Leader chosen by the Councillors only needs to be accountable to his fellow conspirators.

    ReplyDelete
  4. TDC know if a full referendum was held asking "Do you want to elect a mayor?" - Yes or No? - the overwhelming answer would be YES. So they hide behind government speak such as:

    "Consultation on new Governance Models for Executive Arrangements"

    That will leave anyone cold.

    Add to that the erosion of this right by the present central government and it is "New Mayor? - No hope"

    Whatever your politics are, I think most people would agree that Ken Livingstone and/or Boris Johnson have been good for London.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Has anyone found out whether this Government does intend to repeal the 2007 Act or is this yet more TDC lies?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Andrew

    The new Government has confirmed their intention to repeal the 2007 Act by way of new primary legislation.

    However the timetable for the new legislation is such that that local government must proceed to comply with the requirements of the 2007 Act and make a decision on form of executive arrangements.

    The Act states that the Secretary of State may in the period prior to May 2011 by order specify executive arrangements providing for an Elected Mayor or Leader and Cabinet model, and such arrangements will be regarded in law as having been made by the Council itself.

    Failure to comply will be unlawful.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Once again arrogantly led and arrogantly served by TDC.

    Getting rid of the current system and have an elected and fully accountable leader does it for me...but then again if you wrote in supporting an elected mayor they (the current ruling mob) will ignore it.

    I can remember the arrogance of TDC for a referendum for Ramsgate's Town (Parish) Council due to quality of the public's argument. the quality of ours is good its a shame about our useless TDC's argument

    ReplyDelete

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