MPs and their Parties, don’t care about councillors

Another set of local elections out of the way and enough statistics to keep the pundits going until the General Election in May 2015. Who won, who lost and more importantly, who cares?

Obviously all those who actually gained, or lost a council seat, are very interested. Likewise, the remaining councillors, who may now find themselves in the controlling group, or now members of the opposition on their council.

However, beyond the councillors themselves and maybe to a lesser extent, the council officers who now have to deal with a new administration, neither the electorate and certainly not those in Westminster, will give a second thought to those affected.

Those fighting to either maintain control of Westminster, or wrestle control away from those in power, expend a lot of time talking about the results of local elections, when it suits them. Beyond the election period and it’s immediate aftermath, those of us in local government, are more likely to be viewed as an annoyance, rather than the backbone of public services and a conduit of how the public feels about government.

If you question this view, then why do all the main parties still insist on seeing the outcomes of local government elections, as no more than a protest vote and not a valid indication of what will happen at a general election?

Treat councillors with respect – or face the electoral repercussions

Copied from Local Government Chronicle online
Nick Golding
Their footwork ensures leaderships’ messages are passed on to a wider audience on doorsteps across the nation
1 May, 2014 | By Nick Golding

Councillors have not been generously treated by this government. Their role – which should be seen as the linchpin of local democracy – has been likened to that of a scout leader and their pensions have been taken away. More importantly than that, their local authorities must shoulder a disproportionate burden of public sector cuts and have lost even more freedom to exercise their democratic mandate in areas including planning and the setting of council tax levels.

It is unsurprising that councillors feel neglected and their morale is low. LGC’s survey on councillors’ opinions of their party leaderships, which received responses from more than 1,000 members, gives some of the best evidence so far of the strength of this discontent. In the run-up to the local elections, when it is desirable to talk up party unity and bury discontent, councillors have pointedly withheld praise from their leaderships.

This discontent is by no means confined to the governing parties. Labour councillors’ verdict on their national leadership – which recently endorsed the retention of council tax referendums – is hardly anything to write home about. The three main parties are all now tarnished by perceptions of centralisation. All three groups of members give their leaderships an approval rating of less than 40% and none of them rate relationships between their party’s central and local arms as anything higher than six out of 10.

The survey also reveals how Conservative councillors feel promises of localism made by their party when in opposition have come to nothing. “Central Office are overbearing and impose their view as they obviously know better in their ivory tower (not!). Councillors’ views in the sticks are insignificant,” said one particularly aggrieved Tory member. The party scores worst when it comes to central-local relationships. Only the Liberal Democrats – scoring so badly in the opinion polls – do worse than the Tories when it comes to ratings of party leaderships and enthusiasm to campaign in next year’s general election.

LGC inevitably received fewer responses from the smaller parties and their survey results need to be treated with caution but it is noticeable that their councillors appear far more contented. Green and Ukip members are hugely enthusiastic about their national leaderships and central-local relationships are good. It seems that less cloyingly centralised structures boost councillor contentment – although, as Ukip has frequently discovered, a lack of party discipline can undermine the national message.

It is vital that the main party leaderships are mindful of another key role of councillors – in general election campaigns. Their legwork ensures leaderships’ messages are passed on to a wider audience on doorsteps across the nation. Without them, campaigns are hampered, the electorate remains in the dark.

With the general election only a year away, party leaders have little time remaining to rally the troops. Now is the time to motivate the foot soldiers who can take their messages afar. However, a sense of disappointment pervades many of them. Only devolution of power and a new culture of respect for councillors are likely to overcome the disappointment of many.

…It’s claimed that Davey got Hayes sacked…

“Climate change sceptic Mr Hayes had asked the head of power giants E.on to warn of blackouts unless the Coalition watered down its green crusade and made a U-turn on the closure of coal-fired generators. But Mr Hayes’s boss, Energy Secretary Ed Davey, hit the roof when he found out about the ‘treachery’ – and demanded he was sacked.
Two weeks later, Mr Hayes was dismissed and given a minor backroom role in No 10, advising David Cameron on links with Tory MPs.” – Mail on Sunday

Time to target MPs on the NPPF

With the likes of Francis Maude thinking he can say what he likes about those have the temerity to challenge the National Planning Policy Framework CONSULTATION document, perhaps the emphasis should now shift towards individual MPs.
Members of those organisations currently being slated by various CLG ministers and others who should know better, should now start filling their MP’s postbags with letters of protest at the intemperate and now insulting language being used against those who are exercise their democratic right to comment on a government policy document that is, after all, only out for consultation.
That is of course unless the consultation exercise is actually nothing but, to quote Francis Maude, the new foul-mouthed fishwife of Westminster, ‘bollocks’.

Time for action on Big Society

As MPs went through the motions in Parliament, having been recalled, I hope at least a few of them, including those on the Tory benches, took the opportunity to ask David Cameron how, given the events of that triggered the recall, he intends to put his Big Society vision in to practice.

Surely, the recent, both horrifying and depressing, events across mainly England, are a confirmation of what David Cameron has been saying since he became Party leader. His biggest problem now, is the risk of being accused of being all talk and no action. Can he really expect all those people who turned out on the streets of London, armed with brooms and bin bags, to keep doing so from now on, without something more than words of encouragement from his government? If he does, then his vision is doomed already.

Just like a train needs tracks to run, Big Society will only work if it has the right sort of infrastructure to support it. People are demanding no more cuts in police budgets, so that more officers can be put on the streets and that is one solution. However, the heavy hand of authority is the way regimes such Syria, Lybia and Zimbabwe control their populations. I don’t think any right minded citizen would wish to see the UK go down this route, if only because it fails completely to address the underlying issues. Policing is the answer, but not neccesaraily high police numbers. Policing focussed on and based in the community, in other words, a return to a form of the good old village bobby.

If David Cameron believes that the Big Society can work, he could do worse than start by reintroducing genuine local policing. This could be in the form of a proper community based police officer, complete with office and house – sound familiar? Or, as works in other European countries such as Holland, community wardens living and working in their communities. Recent events in Japan also highlighted their system of community based officials. I also understand that it is common practice to see mini-police offices on many street corners, providing genuine community based policing.

The key to this approach is ensuring that there are enough boots on the ground, as they say in the military – over to you Dave.

Many MP’s have a conflict of interest

Following on from the story that Chris Grayling, the Employment Minister, is berating the health and safety culture in this country, I’d like to ask why it’s taking the politicians so long to address the real problem?

Health and safety legislation saves lives and prevents people from being seriously injured everyday. Unfortunately, it also encourages some officials, managers and bosses to go over the top, make silly decisions and sometimes lead to the H&S legislation becoming a laughing stock and an easy target for the press, but why? What are all these officials, managers and bosses afraid of? No win, no fee lawyers, that’s what.

Are our politicians kicking this issue in to the long grass because so many of them were themselves lawyers, solicitors, or even barristers before entering Parliament? It’s more than likely that, having been ‘in the job’, those who should be confronting this issue head on, are still closely associated with the profession in some way. This could be through a business partnership, a family member, or just having close friends plying the legal trade. If so, many of these MPs will be very keen to avoid biting the hand that feeds them, or upsetting the no win, no fee gravy train their professional mates are enjoying such a cushy ride on.

Are they up to the job anymore?

Is it possible for our current crop of politicians and police officers to actually put us back on the straight and narrow given their recent track record? The hypocrisy of their position should be clear all given recent past events.

Before taking all of their self-righteous rage about the moral degredation of these rioters and looters at face value, let’s not forget that many of our law makers, the MPs, have been guilty of the organised looting of the public purse, otherwise known as the expenses scandal. Anyone who thinks sending a few of them to prison solved the problem, is completely missing the fact that their wholesale acceptance of such a lax and corruptible system , brings in to question the integrity of all MPs and therefore their right to govern us. Their version of looting was arguably more civilised, but it was equally damaging to the moral fabric of this country. We should ensure that the survivors, which doesn’t mean they were without guilt, are reminded of this fact on a very regular basis.

Ironic that the Met Police should be the ones, initially, confronted by mass rioting and so clearly demonstrating their bravery and comittiment to public safety. This is the same force that gave News Of The World ( and no doubt other) reporters, access to confidential information. Had it been just the time honoured practice of journalists picking their brains of their police contacts, it might of been seen as no more than a bit dodgy and something to be stopped via a stern memo. However, what happened was far more insidious and clearly highly corrupt. Not only did singificant sums of money change hands, police databases were routinely accessed and the information passed on, apparently without any concern for the safety of those being targeted.

In the nineties the police were accused of institutionalised racism following the murder of black teenager and a flawed police investigation. This led to the our police forces beinf overwhealmed by a tsunami of political correctness that swept common sense policing off of our streets and replaced it with a avalanche of rules written by senior officers more interested in their next promotion than effective policing. The question is, has this poor leadership also made the police open to a form of institutionalised corruption? Does becoming a service instead being a force, mean that our police feel under-valued and somewhat irrelevant and therefore left feeling that, just like the MPs, a bit of routine rule bending is of no consequence?