Thursday, 24 March 2016

Councillors Allowances & the public vote!

A popular local vote  - A  vox po·pu·li ?by Andrew Wastling

'The New Town Hall is the central building. The fresh nap was not yet worn off it; and of course; it’s authorities were anxious to preserve it’s pristine Corinthian beauty from the condemnations of 'the unwashed'..  At the “Free Exhibition” of the models for the Peel monument, a notice was posted at the entrance warning visitors that; “Persons in clogs would not be admitted'

Lancashire Sketches, Ramble from Bury to Rochdale , p.16,
Edwin Waugh, 1855
TWO things spring to mind after reading the recent media expose of Councillors expenses 'Councillors received over £700k in allowances'.
Firstly it is obvious to all that despite “rubber-stamping” £37 million pounds in cuts to vital front line public services only a few weeks ago not a single one of the Councillors present at the Budget fixing meeting at the town Hall  proposed a reduction to their
expenses  as a means of saving our 'cash strapped' council public money.

A strange oversight - maybe it will be on the Agenda at the next Town Hall Budget meeting ?

Our councillors may not be aware of the popular public anger that the revelation they collectively  '
received over £700k in allowances'  has caused - some are simply out of touch some simply don't even care but let me suggest one possible remedy - lets propose a  £1000 a year expenses reduction from each of our hard working democratic representatives at the Town Hall to their lucrative - some would argue
ludicrous - expenses package.

This single act of voluntary generosity on their part would  at least show a personal public commitment to standing with the poor &
vulnerable of the Borough who's services are about to be reduced to dangerous and socially damaging levels.

The citizens of Rochdale would be reassured that at least our Councillors and those who foot  their expenses  are 
“all in it together “ ~ whatever this cliché actually means in reality ?

We could at least feel assured that it was not just those in dire need who were shouldering all of the pain & none of the gain from Tory imposed
austerity measures

This £1000 a year times sixty councillors would provide us with £60,000 a year that could be used to prevent one of the many services  about to close down to lack of funding after the Town Hall budget recently -carried unanimously incidental by the  very same Councillors receiving £700K a year in expenses !

A popular local vote , a vox populi, could then determine annually which struggling community centre, nursery, school, Adult Social Care , or vital front line elderly or homeless service should receive the £60,000 that year - a much fairer system than the staus quo one would have thought ?

Each Councillor can of course would be at liberty to nominate a possible worthy recipient from their own ward .There  should be no shortage of contenders for them to pick from and such a '
Peoples Lottery' would at least offer the possibility of hope of vital longer term
survival for services facing axing or collapsing  and go a long way to reducing the public opprobrium they now face locally over their
expenses ?

My second thought was that I like to consider myself reasonably politically informed so I did a mental list of all of the Councillors at Rochdale Council I could name from memory - I came up with a slightly miserable list of the
 "usual suspects "  fifteen out of sixty - not a massive score, and certainly not a ringing endorsement of our local councillors political engagement or personal profiles.

Now to be sure there are a number of excellent hardworking & tireless Councillors who are involved in local politics solely for what they
can give to our town rather than for what they can wring out of our local taxpayers - I have no beef whatsoever with them , nor indeed do
most voters - the remainder are generally viewed as bone-idle  parasitical free loaders on the local body politic who in some instances have never spoken at Council Meeting., except to ask where they sign on their expenses claim form, or raised an issue of local concern to their constituents since being elected to office.

In such financially straightened times we need performance related pay introducing immediately  , a minimum number of mandatory weekly
surgeries, public meetings and local ward involvement meetings at ward level for each and every Councillor .

The IT technology now exists to ensure that when a constituents e-mails are ignored for lets say for  example three months that the e-mails from long suffering ward constituents can be flagged up on a Public Forum so we can all see which ward councillors actually bother to do their jobs and reply to electronic lobbying - or the majority who simply ignore it all together out of laziness or just out of stupidity.

Lets also see as  well  the mandatory requirement to speak at any meeting they attend , no more turning up claiming the expenses then clearing off post haste without contributing to the business in hand ,and for Councillors to have a mandatory a minimum number of motions put to Full  Council per year and at the very least on online weekly diary of local ward engagements , meetings attended and issues addressed by each
individual councillor.

This could be done at almost zero  cost to the tax payer on the existing Rochdale Council web page.

It beggars belief that some of our councillors are entitled to any expenses at all - for the vast majority of us if we don't do the job
we don't get paid our wages.

It's a no brainer isn't it folks ?

Why then does the same not apply to our councillors ?

After checking the political party web page on Rochdale Councils homepage at :

I discovered to my absolute shock, horror & surprise  the vast majority of those listed from all political parties were names I'd never even
heard of !

These all but anonymous councillors are all so clearly grafting away hammer & tong 24/7 for the good of our town and their constituents
that they simply never have the chance to escape into daylight from the dimmer recesses
of the Town Hall where they are forever engaged in furthering the common good for our town?

This is a game readers can play at home try listing more than fifteen Rochdale Councillors off the top of your head .

I struggled with this for half an hour ,but there are no hard and fast rules to time or number of attempts allowed per player.

At the end of the game try a quick scan of on the Councils home page at those Councillors you couldn't name or like me have never even
heard of  and ask yourself are the ones you couldn't name worth anything at all let alone  '£700 K a year in expenses' given their near zero political profiles ?

No doubt Readers can form their own opinion on value for money as well as ,  or indeed far better , than I can ? 

No comments: