120504 Local Democracy

Comment posted on Guildford Dragon website

Let All the Councillors Have Their Say

In response to your opinion piece, ‘Where is GBC’s ‘Openness and Transparency’?’, as I recall it, Mr Hill’s other interventions during the debate on the Guildford Philharmonic were to tell the Scrutiny Committee what it can and cannot discuss and what sub-committees it can and cannot establish.

It is, surely, bad enough to have a relatively unaccountable Executive Committee (7 rural councillors and a token urban one) running affairs in our town – often to the complete disenfranchisement of the remaining forty or so councillors – but to also have a non-local Chief Executive deciding how this Council should conduct the democratic part of its business and behaving petulantly at that meeting whenever anyone said something with which he disagreed is palpably ultra vires. He was at the meeting as an officer (standing in for the one whose demise he oversaw) and should have behaved as such.

It is questionable how well the administrative part of his job is done – I know several members of the voting public to whom he has not even afforded the courtesy of a reply in respect of letters, emails and calls, relating to important issues affecting the town and Borough*. I also have received comments from many employees across the Council (all too afraid to speak out despite the Transparency Code implemented last year) that tell a different story when compared to that protective cloak of concern for his staff he discovered somewhere for the occasion of that meeting.

It is not the professional part of the job that is at question here, though. If David Hill wishes to get involved in local democracy, he should (1) move here so that he is eligible to stand and to vote; he should (2) put himself forward and see what the good burghers of Guildford actually think of him; he should (3) earn sufficient respect to be voted as party leader of the majority party so that he can (4) become the leader of the council.

Let all of the councillors have their say. Let them all provide strong and free representation of those who entrusted them with their votes. No-one should be disenfranchising whole sections of the Borough. Not the party political system, not the Executive Committee and, most definitely, not the Chief Executive.

* I have been asked to remove this reference as some instances have been agreed as misunderstandings – my own experience is very mixed (for example, as of 14th May and as far as I can tell, I have not yet received a reply to or acknowledgement of my email to him of 27th April).

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