Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Local Government Reform

My regular readers will know by now that I am disappointed with the performance of our local councillors. This post is my off the cuff ramblings I suppose and not properly thought through but nevertheless somewhere near the truth of what I am trying to say. We have three councillors per ward who are all part time. If they all happen to be in the same party they should in theory work together for the common good. Never saw much of that when we had three Liberals but now we have two Libs and a Labour councillor so I suspect they’re all doing their own thing. This year we have had two local elections in our ward and on my blog I have commented on the literature put out at election time. Some I thought was good some a bit doubtful with what they were claiming and one item I thought was an absolute whopper of a porky and stolen from the work of another group. These claims and counter claims are in my opinion not good for local democracy and put people off politics. We have regular town committee meetings in West Brom and I would like our councillors to give regular reports to this committee on what they have been “campaigning for” or working on. I don’t mean attended such and such a meeting but actually done. We could then challenge what they have been doing and have a better idea at election time when their leaflets make these claims. Good example is my present beef about lack of support for Poop Scoop week over here in Newton. The press attend these meetings so it would be good for them to have an accurate report and make their work more transparent. It would also help to reduce the risk of stretching the truth at election time.
I have always thought that councillors should live in the ward that they represent. I know that we have councillors who live in our ward but represent other wards across Sandwell. In principle this might seem OK but I worry that they are having an influence on local councillors’ activities to the detriment of our ward. It’s a complex issue and one which needs much thought and debate but let’s have the debate in open forum.
There is also a case I think for reducing the number of councillors, increasing their allowances and having a min time per week that they should be allocating to the ward a sort of time sheet. This is much more than a part time job these days. One of our councillors gives a weekly update on the council web site on what she has been doing but there is no history to this record which again I find unsettling. The shoving round of leaflets every few months claiming to be working year round doesn’t work for me and I suspect voters often vote because they have seen more of one parties leaflets or in the last case because our national government were making such a balls of it. In either case this is not good for local democracy. We are not getting the best people elected or even interested in standing for election.

1 comment:

DT said...

Hiya Bob! Great article and I SO hear what you're saying about inefficiency and general waste of resources.

A suggestion? Why not propose that the council implement some form of time tracking software and make it accessible to the general public?

Who would have thought....public officials being accountable for their time and work? Nah..... ;)