Chip­ping away at lo­cal democ­racy

Harefield Gazette - - OPINION - CLLR RAY GRA­HAM Uxbridge North Ward CLLR PETER CURL­ING (LAB) Town­field Ward

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?

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