Friday, 10 December 2010

Is Thanet District Council Rigging The May Elections

In May the council will either have a new style strong leader, elected by the voters in Thanet at the May election when we vote for the councillors, or it will have a new style strong leader chosen by the councillors.

One or the other has to happen because of an act of parliament passed by the government in 2007.

To decide which of these types of leadership the council will have, the council has to consult the voters to find out which type of council leadership they want, the council has two options for doing this set out in the act, one is to hold a referendum so that the voters can vote for which type of leadership they want, the other is for the council to hold a public consultation to determine what the voters want.

The council has decided, to decide what the voters want, by holding a public consultation, this consultation has been in progress now for eleven weeks and has determined the views of six voters.

To answer the question in the title of this post I don’t intend to present an argument, but instead to ask another question.

Do you think that the leader of the council, that we get after the May elections, will be the same person as the leader we would have got, had the council chosen to decide what the voters want by holding a referendum?

One of the problems with the council’s leadership is accountability, it is very difficult to elicit a response from the current leader and I believe this may be to do with the way he was selected. The following is a quote from the council’s website.

“A strong and stable democracy relies on people using their votes. By voting, you can hold your elected representatives accountable.

Make sure you have your say. Votes are power.”

Click on the link for the page if you want to read the rest of this

The council officers have published their advice about how the councillors should decide this issue at next weeks council meeting, it is a very odd document, bits of it just don’t make sense, for example:

“8.1 As mentioned earlier in the report the Council must selected its preferred political governance arrangements have regard to the public consultation responses as well as the extent to which the proposals, when implemented, would be likely to assist in securing continuous improvement in the way in which the Councils functions are exercised, having regard to a combination of economy, efficiency and effectiveness.”

Does it mean, select or have selected. I think the difference is make their mind up at the meeting, or come to the meeting with their minds already made up?

4.1 Para 2 “In considering how to approach these requirements you will wish to have regard to the circumstances of today, including both the priority of cutting out all wasteful spending and the Government’s commitments to allow councils to return to the committee system, should they wish to, and on elected mayors.”

Does it mean the governments commitments, the committee system and or elected mayors are wasteful spending?

Here the rest of it read it for your self if you want.$RevisedPoliticalManagementArrangements.doc.htm


  1. Michael,I think what the officer speak is trying to say is that there is no point in spending a lot of taxpayers money now on finding out the electorate's views because the coalition are shortly going to bring forward other options that we will have to consult on all over again.

  2. Well Dave either the coalition abolish elected Mayors or they don’t, if they do it will be interesting to see what happens, however I don’t see how the changes they want could become effective for at least a year. As it is the government haven’t said what they are going to do about the way a leader is selected and unless they say that councils should have no leader at all, it would seem that whoever we get in May we keep for the next four years.

    The bottom line for me is are they rigging an election? I suppose the answer there is, if you think that the result of a proper consultation, statuary 20 days and statuary publicity could have resulted in either a mayoral election referendum or a mayoral election, when what they have done wouldn’t, then you have the answer.

    What the officer seems to be saying is that it is ok to save money by hanging someone now instead of putting them in prison, because the government may introduce capital punishment some time in the future.

    Technical question Dave, the leader of the council and quite a few other councillors have said in writing that they don’t want an elected leader, would this preclude them from voting on the issue?

    If you don’t think this is the case, do you think the voters should elect the leader or do you think the council should?

    Final question could you really understand that document?

  3. I read elsewhere that the tory leader of Tunbridge Wellls council is about to be replace due to a vote of no confidence ( it seems he is operating in secrecy!). The question I have for you Michael is can a leader directly elected by the public be easily removed?

  4. 11.44 I think to answer that, I would have to separate the two issues here, one being how the leader is selected, which if it isn’t done properly and legally it would probably mean that the leader wouldn’t have legal status as such.

    By this I mean, if the selection process is shown to be rigged, as I think may be happening at the moment, then whichever type of leader we get would probably have to go pretty promptly.

    Another thing here is that assuming the public’s opinion is eventually sought properly on the matter, they may of course opt for a non-elected leader.

    On the point of removal of a leader from office, historically although the option exists in practice what usually happens is that the leader is forced to resign.

    In May what we get is one of two sorts of new strong leader, what we had before isn’t an option, so it would be more difficult to remove either sort, although slightly easier theoretically to remove a non elected leader than an elected one, providing that the council have set this into the constitution just after their selection.

    The intention of the 2007 act is that either type of new leader will serve the full four years, unless they either die in office, resign or does something that bars them from holding office, I think some sorts of criminal activity would count on this score, although probably not a parking offence.

    In general in democracies elected representatives are fairly difficult to remove and I suppose this is generally thought to be a good thing.

    Now a question for you. If it is shown that some person or group within the council rigged the consultation, didn’t follow the normal criteria adopted by the council for important consultations that effect the whole Thanet area, didn’t issue a press release, didn’t advertise it in the local papers, didn’t put it on the consultations page of their website, didn’t promote it on the councils homepage in plain English, and so on, do you think they will be removed from their positions?

  5. Does anybody still believe we have ever had a democracy hasnt it always been rigged ???

    Isnt this why the government always gets in no matter what parties are put forward, they are all the same party anyway.

    All drink from the same Lodge cup ?

  6. Harvey Patterson, Head of Legal & Democratic Services, in an undated explanatory note (probably undated becasue it's only appeared on the website as a result of the minor furore stirred up in the last few days)

    "Section 64 of the Local Government & Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 requires the Council to consult the public on, and then adopt, one of the two political governance models prescribed by the Act, namely the ‘Leader and Cabinet’ model or the ‘Elected Mayor and Cabinet’ model. The Council has to make a decision before the 31 December 2010 and the preferred option will be implemented in May 2011 following the local government elections.

    Reports on the two options were considered by the Constitution Review Working Party on the 7 June 2010, by the Standards Committee on 29 June 2010 and by full Council on 15 July 2010. Full Council expressed a ‘pre-consultation preference’ for the Leader and Cabinet Model and authorised a web based public consultation exercise as this could be met from within existing budgets. This approach also reflected the view of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government given to the Council in a ministerial letter dated 7 July 2010 when he said:

    ‘In considering how to approach these requirements you will wish to have regard to the circumstances of today, including both the priority of cutting out all wasteful spending and the Government’s commitments to allow councils to return to the committee system, should they wish to, and on elected mayors. We also intend to remove the necessity to elect a leader for four years. We intend to provide for these commitments in our Localism Bill to be introduced later in this Parliamentary session. This may mean that any governance model you adopt in May 2011 may be further changed within a year or so. Your decisions about consultation will also be taken in the context of the greater transparency and openness agenda which I am confident you will be putting in place throughout your Council’

    I am satisfied that the Council has adopted a consultation strategy that is both adequate and proportionate given that, whatever decision the Council ultimately takes on which of the two options to adopt, it is going to have to revisit its political governance arrangements within a matter of months of implementation in May 2011, probably in late 2011 or early 2012. It is also clear that although the Coalition Government may amend the ‘Leader and Cabinet’ model and introduce a ‘Council and Committee’ model, it has no intention of removing the ‘Elected Mayor and Cabinet’ model nor is it likely to repeal the legislation introduced by the previous government which gives the electorate the right to petition the Council to hold a referendum for an elected Mayor provided at least 5% of the electorate sign the petition."

    Note that half way through the last paragraph the legal eagle says that the Government have no intention of removing the ‘Elected Mayor and Cabinet’ model. If saving money is the name of the game surely then this option is the one that is most likely to save money. Any of the other options, including the Councils preferred option, may involve yet another change in a year or two; only the elected Mayor and Cabinet model will avoid this.


  8. Retired. Corruption, or alleged corruption, isn't unique to people called "Mayor"

  9. Michael, pre-detemination would not precluded them from voting.
    This only applies on planning decisions and licencing where pre-determination is banned.
    My own view is that I would prefer a combination of directly elected leader and a form of the old committee system which would ensure all concillors were involved in scrutinising decisions.

  10. "What happens with the present system is that someone decides to become a councillor, for the most part I think that they have generally very good intentions of righting the wrongs in Thanet."

    In my experience this is not necessarily the case. Can you not think of other reasons that people stand for the coucil in Thanet?


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