Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How Local Democracy is being dismantled behind closed doors

I've often referred to turkeys not voting for Christmas, when suggesting that civil servants, local government officers, might give advice to politicians, which is not in the public interest but their own and if I carry the analogy along further, you could say if councillors represent the farmers in this, then they've become too sentimental over the stock.

However that analogy is flawed to some extent, but certainly inspired by the goings on locally, tomorrow 23/09/10, is the occasional meeting of the cabinet, which basically runs the show with a handful of Tories, no problem there, as I understand all are elected to office, one item of interest deals with tarting up Margate (prior to Turner Gallery opening) referred to as "Countdown to  2011" on the agenda, I prefer my title but the council dib dobs who type the agenda earn a lot more than I.

Still that's not a cause for concern,  item 10 is that frequent used bollix device of local government, exclusion of the public, for some arcane reason which you and I will never understand because it will never be explained item 11, is to be top secret, although the agenda is available.

So what's the big secret, well it involves the creation of East Kent Services, a cooperative arrangement between Thanet, Canterbury and Dover council ostensibly set up to allow the three council make economies by collaborating and jointly running service like housing, ICT (I had to look it up computer and telephones) any how as sensible as it all sounds, one thing it wont be is democratic, powers are to be delegated to Richard Samuel, and the chief exec's of Dover & Canterbury to set up departments who will only refer back to the democratically elected leaders of council if they cannot produce 10% savings in two years, pity the governments looking for 25% and although this is already a done deal they have now amended it to four years and 25%.

Now no doubt someone will correct me but it would appear that much of local governance has been handed over to highly paid "officers" who are not elected and cannot be sacked by the electorate.

As I mentioned earlier, my analogy was wrong, and maybe the turkeys, have made monkeys of our Conservative councillors. Anyway if I can get away from work in time I shall be going along, if I'm late I still expect Richard Samuel Chief Executive to make sure that the doors are open so that I can witness part of the charade that passes for democracy in these parts.

Just as a side issue its a pity none Thanet's hard pressed journalist explain such things, again I suspect that reporters recognise that its council officers in the driving seat, and councillors in the back seat.what democracy1 democracy ruled out2
democracy ruled out3


  1. Tony as this one falls to me, I can assure you that nobody is attempting to pull the wool over anyone's eyes, democracy is alive and well and as councillors we have a duty to work in the public interest.

    In this case, our minds are very much focused on £160 billion or so of debt and the impact that this is going to have on all of us. We have to find ways of being more efficient and saving money and shared services is a direction agreed upon by three councils who believe that there may be considerable costs saving in pooling a number of resources, which are in many cases invisible to the general public.

    The whole landscape of local government is undergoing change and in five to ten years may look very different to the one we have become used to.

  2. Yes the landscape will be different as it will controlled by officers and not democrats in charge. And of course a mishmash of control since three councils are involved you been manovered

  3. Any what a big suprise it will end up with a director getting paid even more money.Richard Samuels has cost the thanet rate payer so much since he has been in charge it is bordering on the criminal. He has had more directors than most people have had hot dinners. All on the grounds of efficiency.

  4. I have seen the officers lead the councillors on things that are clearly on in the interest of the local people. More that they (officers) have a tick box target to meet and so lead the councillors off the path of speaking on behalf of the 'voting' public.

    DrM; I have no doubt that pooling services is a must do need. However everywhere is having to do it, but it seems in a more open way - heavens above even giving local residents a chance to suggest things and more importantly listening to those suggests rather than just consulting so you can say you have listened. Of course when I say you this now means 'officers'.

    I just think that the motives of some of the officers with in the TDC Cell are not geared to community, local residents it is more so to self preservation and self interest.

  5. a scandal indeed what possible reason do the council and most likely the officers have for keeping the public away from the discussion at least, could someone tell us who's got what to hide.

  6. "The whole landscape of local government is undergoing change and in five to ten years may look very different to the one we have become used to." a leaner meaner machine but will we have as many people earning huge wages and not understanding the public's concern at there extortionate salaries and pensions? I expect so because as Tony said Turkey's wont vote for Christmas. and those in high paid cushy numbers wont sack themselves will they??

  7. That's not strictly correct Don.

    If you look at TDC as one example, senior positions have slimmed down considerably over the last three years. Once you extend that to shared services between three councils then a proportionate number of posts steadily disappear as part of the costs saving exercise.

  8. Look into the LSP (local strategic partnerships)which appears to be a way of devolving accountability , far more than any 'real' savings being made by the local authorities.

    The council may be able to designate services to others but they can never designate responsibility , this rests with the elected councillors NOT officers.

  9. That last comment is very true, local responsibility stays with the councillors. However, you can have a situation where an outsourced service or one integrated across several authorities is politically accountable, through its service level agreement.

    Put another way, we are using Google at present and the service exists in 'The cloud'. In the not too distant future, you might have Google or Amazon hosting whole swathes of public sector services because it's cheaper and more cost effective to use the economies of scale and processing power these now make available.

    Until the 1930's many factories generated their own electricity supply but when the national grid became pervasive, electricity became a utility and companies no longer had to spend money to be in the electricity business.

    IT costs business and local government billions and where the latter is concerned the reason to exist is to provide public services and not run huge IT departments.

    In summary then, shared services is simply a movement towards the streamlining and rationalization of a whole raft of mainly IT driven processes to achieve efficiencies and economies of scale.

    Accountability remains in place as a necessary priority!

  10. Account for this, taking advantage of your position, making a cheap jibe in an uneven forum.