At tonight’s District Council Committee meeting we had the debate on whether to allow some Parent and Child bays in our Council Car Parks.
As we wrote a few days ago, the officers were recommending? doing nothing. Apparently there are some spaces that could be widened into Parent and Child spaces, but it would cost an estimated ?500 per space (!) to adjust them, and then it might be a problem that they might be left empty when they could be occupied by non-parents.
However the item was up for debate by councillors. The committee has 9 Tories (2 of them didn’t turn up), 1 independent (who didn’t turn up) and 1 Lib Dem (Chris Black.) When the chairman of the committee, Tory Phil Capon , began speaking, it looked like we would get some spaces agreed:
“Since becoming a father my eyes have been opened to the many issues and problems that the parents and carers of children face. I can appreciate what my residents have been telling me for some time.
To return to your car and find you are unable to get your child back in his or her car seat due to the thoughtlessness of others is potentially dangerous and annoying.
I don’t advocate the loss of parking bays but merely that end bays should be designated ‘parent and child”
We continually hear that we must prevent the High Streets from dying and that ‘out of town’ shopping centres are luring people away. This is true – they appreciate the problems and offer suitable parking bays.
We can not only show our commttment to child safety but also that we support local businesses.”
Chris Black felt quite good at this point as he was on balance in favour of the idea and it looked like it was going to happen. BUT THEN – a sombre Cllr Capon continued to speak:
Sadly members, my dream is not to be. Due to the blinkered views of other members, who I can only assume care nothing for the wellbeing of children and who don’t want local shopping centres to survive, a wonderful chance is being lost.
The “whip” is on, I cannot vote against it otherwise I lose my right to represent ny residents. Morally , I cannot vote for the recommendation so I will abstain”
The situation became clear. Cllrs Phil and Tracy Capon had raised the item in the private Tory group meeting. They’d lost out in a vote to the Tory ‘dinosaurs’ . Then the Tory leadership had enforced a whip, so that if Phil Capon voted for Parent and Child parking bays, he’d be thrown out of the Tory group.
After Phil Capon spoke, there was an embarassed silence. Chris jumped in and proposed allowing some Parent and Child parking spaces but didn’t get a seconder. So Tory leader Terry Cutmore proposed having no Parent and Child Bays and Cllr Tony Humphries seconded that.
Chris then scornfully said that in his 20+ years on the council he’d never seen any political party impose a whip on such a small item. He was very disappointed with the Tory group’s behaviour.
The voting was:
No Parent and Child Bays : 5 Cllrs Terry Cutmore, Tony Humphries, John Pullen, Mavis Webster and David Merrick (all Tories)
Abtaining : 2 Cllrs Phil Capon and Colin Hungate (both Tories)
For Parent and Child Bays: 1 Cllr Chris Black (Lib Dem)
A big mistake by the Tory leadership tonight. If they’d let Phil Capon vote with his conscience, the issue would have been over in 5 minutes. But now it won’t be forgotten so quickly, and it shows them in a bad light.
Just to compliment you on your excellent article in the Rayleigh Times re Councillor Capon and Conservative councillors having pre whipped an issue which evidentially means they are not going into the debate with an open mind. They should be ashamed of themselves because, like the Labour Party in the Commons they have a huge majority and have no excuse for not allowing the discussion and the debate- surely Mother and Child bays is not a political issue, or are they so divided amongst themselves that they live in fear of each other, if so then they are truly obsessed by power, rather than the general good of the electorate.
I have also always thought that in the Commons the whips should leave the chamber when there is a free vote instead of pointedly remaining where they can influence the vote and make it not free.
It is my belief that the whip system in the Commons means that the electorate are excluded from democratic representation on new issues which were never in the maifesto or are deviations from the declared policy. What we have now in the commons is a system where issues are pre decided by a small cabal at the top who crack the whip and MP’s bow their heads in abject obedience because they are either too lazy or too gutless to study the issue and consult their constituents and then express a view as the Democratic process intends.
In the UK now we have an elected Government but when they have needed to use frequent 3 line whips to get the vote through with that size majority, then they are almost certainly wrong in their view on that issue and democratic representation becomes a farce and a pretence, with the result that the relationship between the people and the establishment has broken down to the point where there is not just a failure of trust but to where Parliament is held in contempt and people are so disillusioned that they do not even bother to vote for what, in my view, has become little more than a self serving political Mafia. The Commons has become a stinking pit and a democratic desert. My fear is that where Democracy ceases to work people only have recourse to the streets, there is talk of revolution but first we need to train people to knit shrouds.
One of the things that I feel would redress the balance a little would be a heavily revised and much more open freedom of information act to prevent the Govt from avoiding accountability by hiding behind the official secrets act and I feel that this ought to be a Lib. Dem. manifesto promise.