Having just put up Laura Sandys press release http://thanetpress.blogspot.com/2011/05/election-night-glamour-of-democracy.html and read Luke Edwards post http://www.thanetwaves.co.uk/2011/05/bob-bayford-for-pm.html thought I had better not nick his picture so I have run it through a simple piece of hardware, (sorry I don’t do doors) I thought I ought to do another one of my posts on the leadership of the council.
We have recently had an election about the running of the council as some of you may have noticed, however the real choices seem to be going to be made next Thursday at the council.
One thing we are going to get is almost all new senior council officers, including a new chief executive, strangely enough the council don’t seem to have announced who else is replacing who, possibly they don’t think that we are interested.
What’s the phrase, the people of Thanet don’t know they are born, or some such thing. One also wonders how exactly all the new chiefs are selected, I mean do they select each other or are they selected by the representatives that we elected?
Local democracy is one of those peculiar things where the more I find out about it the less I find I understand it, once upon a time I had a rather naïve notion of the local council as being a group of people who we elected by local people to represent them, who then selected a clerk and some people to handle the paperwork and went about the business of running the local area in the way that local people want.
In reality we have three different local councils all responsible for different things with a plethora of incredibly highly paid bureaucrats running a seeming endless number of departments, generating mountains of paper and some how in all this the rubbish gets emptied and if you are very lucky your road gets mended.
Chances are if you ring up the council and say there is a pothole outside your house, you will be told that you have rung up the wrong council.
In all of this it is quite difficult to see if our elected members make that much difference, or if you as an individual can make any difference at al by contacting one of the elected members and trying to get some democratic representation.
You may for instance phone up your ward councillor and ask them to look into some problem, only to be told that the other political party got elected and won’t tell him or her anything about the issue.
This then leaves your only democratic option as the leader and the other cabinet members, in most cases one would assume the leader to be the obvious choice, particularly when writing to the council.
Like all large organisations, you don’t really expect the leader to reply in person every time, but you do expect to get some sort of reply.
After all what is the elected leadership supposed to be doing, if it isn’t representing the electorate?
Well from my point of view this bloke Bob is very reluctant to reply, despite knowing that in some respects I represent the readers of this blog who I assume are mostly local people.
Now he seems to be saying that he has a mandate to rule based on proportional representation, can this be right?
All the Labour and Conservative councillors working together is an option that sounds good, but I think in practice just means wreak leadership and the council officers pretty much doing what they want, unchecked.
As I have said before this leadership problem is of the council’s own making because of the way they handled the elected leader issue and now we have the situation where three independent councillors hold the balance of power.
Combined with this we have a Conservative group who seem to want to lead in a mainly secretive and exclusive way, they don’t normally issue press releases or communicate their ideas to us.
This leaves us with the perception that either they are not very concerned about local issues or that the situation in the council has got beyond their control and the officers are running rings around them.
Issues that I have looked into here in Ramsgate, like the historic vessels pontoon and the maritime museum suggest a jobsworth rather than common sense approach prevails within the council.
Sticking with the representation issue, the way the election has gone the two main towns are now red, so a Conservative administration would mean no cabinet members living in or representing either of our two main towns. Looking at the state of the towns they do look as though they are being governed by the surrounding villages.
So here we are new strong leader to select, very little constructive public information, something which suggests both the Labour and Conservative groups have gone into different corners.
I wonder if among all of the councillors there is anyone that a substantial majority of councillors would accept as leader, this would be one solution that would give us a strong council.
I wonder if any of the councillors really believe that neither Ramsgate nor Margate should have any cabinet representation.
Of course the alternative is a leader elected in a a public election by the Thanet Electorate.
Something I am not clear about is what they do if the they can’t make it work, I mean do they just muddle along for four years, or is there some way they can go back to the electorate?