Thursday, 13 January 2011

Independents - what is the point?

I have still to be convinced of the relevance or contribution of independents in local government. Elected councillors have in my view two primary duties. The first is to aid ward residents in dealing with specific issues which may arise across a range of council run areas to include housing, planning, education, social care etc. There are many members locally from all parties who fulfil this role conscientiously and effectively, often benefiting for the assistance of more experienced party colleagues. The performance of each councillor relies primarily on their own skill and dedication and the colour rosette they choose to wear is relatively insignificant.

However the second important role is to collectively formulate policy and priorities and to oversee implementation by council officers. It is in the second area that successful local government remains dependent on party involvement.

Each party, whether mainstream or more fringe, offers a clear underlying philosophy on fundamental issues such as regeneration, adult social care, education etc. giving the electorate a meaningful choice. If elected the party group is able to rely on a basic and sufficient ideological cohesion and organisational unity to deliver its core values with responsibility being maintained by the existence of a credible opposition acting as a balancing force.

In Southend we have the unusual concept of a recognised group of independent councillors who cooperate and campaign in a manner similar to the other party groups but who have no shared ideological background, overriding issue or geographical base. This inevitably means that they must concentrate on specific ward sensitive local issues or pursue negative campaigning in that they lack any consensus on the more fundamental challenges facing local government.

They include an unsuccessful Labour candidate and a former Conservative councillor as well as others across the political spectrum. Whilst this is suggested by some as a strength the question remains as to what would happen if they were to hold the balance of power at some stage in the future. Which party administration would they support and how could they agree on the fundamental priorities of the council within their own group, never mind with their new political allies? They are seeking to build what is in all reality a party group without dealing with these fundamental issues.

No comments:

Post a Comment