Chipping away at local democracy
about a small reduction of the precept. Furthermore, I will add that when I campaigned for Boris’s successor as MP for Henley, when Boris became London mayor, the vast majority of the Henley residents that I happened to meet were very sorry to lose Boris Johnson as MP. AT the council AGM on Thursday May 12, the Conservative group put forward various constitutional amendments, most of which moved more decision making powers to the leader of the council.
However, one of the constitutional amendments was to delete the possibility of setting up area committees. Area committees have never been used in this borough, but I believe that the removal of the provision for their existence is yet another act by the Conservative administration of chipping away at our local democracy.
To me, whether the area committee system has been used or not is irrelevant.
The important thing to take note of is that the removal of this from the council’s constitution is a signal the current administration doesn’t pay any regard to the empowerment of residents and their possible inclusion in decision making.
There have been various controversial decisions on where to site community facilities such as schools and young people’s centres and if the administration made use of the area committee system (or something similar) the local community could have played a role in the decisions that were made.
At the AGM, the leader of the council went to great lengths to explain his administration has various other ways of communicating with residents, such as the street champions scheme, the Chrysalis scheme and the ward budget scheme.
All of which I am happy to agree with, but when it comes to some of the bigger decisions that affect the residents, the leader of the council seems to go by the adage that ‘public consultation is the right to have your say, not the right to have your way’.
Area committees could be used to give the residents the opportunity to work in partnership with the council in ensuring that rather than simply be consulted, they could actually be part of the decision making process, so it is sad to see that Cllr Puddifoot has made the decision that not only will he never use such a system, but he will write it out of our local democracy.
So although the removal of an article of the constitution, that has never been used, may look insignificant, I would suggest that it does beg the question – is this a sign of putting residents first, or is it a sign of an administration taking the residents for granted?