Wednesday, 9 October 2013

4 yearly elections

It would appear that my post on the forthcoming vote on a possible move to 4 yearly elections has led to some interesting comments by other bloggers. I am prompted to deal with 3 issues namely that the move would represent a threat to democracy, that as I had indicated my intention to step down it was in some way inappropriate for me to comment, and that contrary to my suggestion the other parties (to include in particular Labour) would experience no difficulty in attracting 51 suitable candidates. Responding to these points I sometimes think that those of us who are actively involved in local politics live in a slight bubble and believe that significant numbers of the public share our passion for the process. Sadly I do not believe this to be the case. I have been actively involved in politics in Southend for the last 30+ years. Particularly as Leader I am constantly approached by residents expressing their views in almost every business and social meeting and the vast majority of these contacts are not people actively involved in party politics of any colour. Except for the specific planning permission which effects their property or the specific decision that directly touches them or their family the reality is that the majority have no interest in the mechanics of local government. The impression I am given is that most people think that most of the time the Council is doing a good job and have no further interest. They often don't know who their local councillors are and until they need them on a specific issue don't care. Many don't vote or if they do, vote on national issues. They just want us to be as cheap and as efficient as possible. Most think that there is a strong Tory majority and rather entertainingly continued to think so at times when we lost control to the Lib/Lab pact. I cannot believe that retaining elections 3 years out of 4 is the answer to encourage engagement and indeed I can find no evidence to suggest that in the many authorities who have all up elections they suffer from a democratic deficiency. The truth is that all up elections will save money and will make settled decision making easier to achieve. As for the other issues my comments as to candidates followed informal comments made to me by activists in the other groups and finally I would have thought that I am perfectly placed to express an opinion which whilst based on experience of the process over many years is not coloured by self interest.

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