LOCAL DEMOCRACY DOES IT EXIST?
A weeks or so back I attended the of Thanet District council cabinet meeting, as ever this was a fairly tedious gathering, myself being 1/3 of the public audience. Looking around the room, I considered what sort of democracy we actually have in this country, and felt deeply disillusioned.
I'm no expert in council meetings, and cabinet meetings appeared to be even less democratic than the full council. Basically my interpretation of a cabinet meeting, is a public announcement of policies that have already been decided by the top nobs of the ruling group, allowing opposition members to beg for leniency, and the ruling group to make derisory comments or be magnanimous where applicable.
Even more unsettling, are the ranks of council officers, who appear to sit behind, you're elected representatives, apart from I think the chief executive, Richard Samuel who if my memory serves me correct, sits next to the leader Sandy Ezekiel. Now why do I say unsettling, well the fact is again going from memory, these paid " professionals" are occasionally requested to chip in with advice or their opinion, which makes you wonder, why every four years we go through the process of electing representatives, surely there must be more to local elections, than providing an opportunity for council employees to earn an extra quid or two by sitting in a draughty church hall handing out ballot papers.
Anyway as you will appreciate, I have not been blogging much recently, this may be because I'm either bored, disillusioned or have better things to do. As it happens, this weekend I had a chance to get out into the countryside, and wound up on the downs above the village of Wye, from the top of these hills there are some magnificent views, but looking towards Wye I was reminded of how not long ago, big business, Ashford borough council, and Kent County council, had plans drawn up to encircle the village with a a vast new housing estate, on some apparent flimsy excuse that Imperial college were building a high tech science park. Fortunately due to tenacious public spirited locals, an embarrassed Imperial college were forced to back down on their outrageous plans to destroy an area of outstanding natural beauty.
Now coming back to my reason for attending, the recent cabinet meeting, my concerns are with Thanet District councils, plans for Dreamland amusement site, as well as proposals to block traffic along Marine Terrace, and send it into the back streets of Margate. Now without consultation with the locals, the council's brilliant planning office, have apparently decided to ignore their previous plans for Dreamland, and just to put the icing on the cake will create traffic chaos of a far greater magnitude than when the county council put traffic lights at the clock tower.
Now there will be a public consultation over this, but if you're anything like me, you will realise that a public consultation, is a process whereby councilors and local bureaucrats put forward an idea then proceed to ignore any criticism and do, what they were going to do anyway, just so that they can wallow in their own self righteousness.
The council in arriving at their plan, have not consulted with any member the public, they have spoken with interested parties, the developers, various government departments and quangos, even the campaign for Dreamland (a group which seems to be interested in prehistoric fairground rides) whose leader according to Eastcliff Richard is not even local.
My personal judgment of local democracy, is that it doesn't actually exist, at least not in any meaningful way. Still when you consider the handful of people, who actually are involved in the democratic process, it's no surprise that, things are as they are.
For further information, firstly I suggest you, have a nice walk in the countryside out at Wye click here for details, to clear your mind, then maybe look at the " save -wye.org" website to get an insight into how local government really works. I would particularly recommend this posting which refers to "corruption".