Saturday, 23 February 2008

Nah.. can't be bothered

Have a look at these quotes which I have pasted on.

The Ward Councillors were consulted on 2 January 2008 but none have made any comments .

Ward Councillors were consulted in May 2007 but none made any
comments on the proposals

These are two sections copied from papers about two separate issues in speke and garston on the city council executive board agenda later this month.

We are talking about issues that will have an effect on people in both Speke and Garston.

Yet this phrase - about consultation and no reply - is so common it makes me wonder whether the councillors in this area ever actually read their mail.

Or perhaps stirring themselves to represent people is a bit too much like hard work!


PM Swimmer said...

I'd agree entirely that this type of thing is pretty despicible but the problem is that once elected people are pretty much free to do what they want for five years.

Elected representatives seem to be able to hold onto office these days, often with the support of their party, in the face of serious wrongdoing, if they aren't kicked out for that they're not going to be censured for a little thing like doing sweet fa when in office.

I have to ask you want to be a councillor whats your solution to this?

From my point of view there are things voters should be doing such as demanding more info on the performance of their councillors and then actually voting on that not on the colour of their rosette!

From a party point of view the parties should deselect councillors that don't perform (obviously after sufficient warning)and other councillors including those of their own party should tackle them over this.

And from a council point of view info on counillors preformance could be presented to the voters in a clear and concise way. This should include, voting record, meetings attended, consultation record, expenses and social functions/ enagagements attended.

Frankly what you've pointed out does rather confirm my growing belief that our system no longer works and that our representatives are generally of the lowest calibre imaginable.

The more I look at this the more I feel that the system is so self-perpetuating and insular that it can't be fixed.

Take Garston as an example of an area and me as potential candidate.
Now I'm not happy about the Councils performance and dislike the current administration for many reasons so joining the lib dems are out but equally I
abhor the idea of ID cards, DNA databases and 48 days detention and therefore can't in good conscience join the Labour party.

Add to that the quite high degree of paraochialness in Liverpool ( 1 councillor stands on the merits of having been born, raised, schooled,lived, worked and barely set foot outside of Garston) and theres no chance that I can stand as an independent without a party machinery behind me.

Oh look, i'm now completely disenfranchised both in terms of having a chance at being elected but also pretty much in being able to remove my councillor.

A lot in that comment I know but you have raised a big topic, what should we get from our councillors and what should be done if they fail to perform.

Paula said...

My first solution would be to publish more information. Info re members interests IS currently published but I suspect would be more accessible if produced as a table rather than a link to each individual councillors' details.

I would certainly publish attendance records. This information is collected and could be gained by someone asking, but I would publish these - perhaps again in table form. You would need to have some sort of explanatory notes - for example while acting as Lord Mayor I suspect a councillors' attendance at some committees would be hit - but s/he would have been doing civic duties. It is possible to deal with this however if the explanations are clear enough - for example you could publish the mayoral engagement diary.

publishing details of social engagement type activity is harder. I have to admit to turning down a lot of these on the basis that I would only do ones which were either of direct benefit to my constituents or where I was in a clearly representative role. It is very easy to get sucked into a lot of this and you have to think about best use of limited time.

Whips within parties have the responsibility of making sure people are doing their jobs - but this can only really extend to activities like meetings and surgeries. Its actually really hard to keep an eye on the other work, which includes replying to consultations. I knew, when I lost my seat, that we had effectively been replaced by a team who would do a lot less work. It pains me to say this but I am still taking up issues for people where I can and where they feel their actual representatives can't be bothered.

Re people being de selected for not doing work. Most parties have a panel which you have to get on to before you can be selected or re selected. This can deal with issues of underperformance and I have seen this happen in the past. Its not a perfect system however, in which case members can de select through the selection ballot. Most parties offer a "re open nominations" choice in selections when there is only one candidate. This has happened in Liverpool in both the Lib Dems and the Labour Party.

My reply is almost as long as your post - and I haven't finished my thoughts yet - but perhaps we can hear from others on this subject because its a bit of a hobbyhorse of mine!

PM Swimmer said...

It seems to me that parties still tend to circle the wagon in support of colleagues far too much and this damages the public image of elected representatives as a whole.

One thing I would suggest though I douby you would like it is to introduce maximum numbers of concurrent terms.

I simply don't believe that you get as much out of those that have held a seat for an age in terms of hard work and more importantly innovative thinking than you do from those that have a limited time in which to make an impact.

It also stiffles movement up the chain the MP can sit forever and get more secure in terms of electoral position due to their 'brand' recognition making it harder for those that should graduate from local gov into national politics and so we get a stagnation at all levels.

The issue of the quality of our representatives really should be looked at, I've dealt with a number of councillors in Liverpool through my work and in all honestly most of them shouldn't be allowed to use scissors without appropriate adult supervision and of the remainder that have some brains I would trust as far as I could throw them.

sorry to sound so pessamistic but its born from actual experience.

Paula said...

The consecutive terms limit is interesting. There are considerable numbers of MPs who are there for years and become stale and effectively block promotion. But what about those who have genuinely picked up really valuable experience and are now using it partly to help others with less experience. And I also know of some whose work rate and effectiveness is on the increase. And until we accept that you can be a first time MP and still be more mature in years, this would effectively be age discrimination. I suspect that replacing the labour time server group of (mainly) men in their sixties with a group of labour former research assistants - mainly men in their late twenties - wouldn't be that much of a gain.

I can't see many MPs going for the proposal - but I suspect the main stumbling block would be the "consecutive terms" definition. Problem here is that Parliamentary boundaries tend to change every 15 years or so - so a canny person who wanted to hang on would merely argue that the constituency they represented was in fact different - hence not a consecutive term. In our area Garston is about to become Garston and Halewood. This is quite a radical change to the constituency, so should the sitting Garston MP be re elected she will say she is in a new constituency - and she will be right to a certain extent.

I suspect in the long term the answer is STV in multimember constituencies. This would give a team of representatives who could work together on some things. There would be a greater chance of a mix of types of people, at different levels of experience. It would also mean that if you had an issue and really wanted to speak to a woman, or a man, or someone older, you are more likely to be able to make that choice. If Liverpool were one constituency with four or five members I believe some people would be much better represented.