We do hope that some of our readers will come to the West Area Committee meeting next Wednesday at 7:30 in the Methodist Church in Eastwood Road
You can put your own questions to councillors in the “Community Forum” part of the meeting – (questions have to be submitted in writing before the start of the meeting – click here for an information page.)
If we are going to promote real democracy on our council, we need the public to come along. Sadly, only one member of the public came to the Central Area Committee on June 12th.
The council will be offering tea, coffee or water to the first 50 members of the public who come! And a hot drink is an improvement on the water-only choice that the public get at full council meetings! (maybe the District Council can learn something from Rawreth Parish and offer the public biscuits as well)
I am trying to get to the meeting on Wednesday and would like to know how the public servants who have the top jobs in the ‘cabinet’ were selected. Did they go through a selection process, work experience etc. These are very important jobs which need experienced people to take a grip of what is going on, not just a figurehead. If I put that question forward for Wednesday Would I get an answer?
Mike – the councillors in the ‘cabinet’ were appointed at the Annual Council meeting in two ways.
The 3 chairs of the Area Committees were elected by a secret ballot of the district council members of each committee. So , for example, for the West committee, the 16 Rayleigh and Rawreth councillors had a vote. There were two candidates, John Pullen and Tony Humphries, and the voting tied 8-8. John Pullen then won by drawing lots.
Both candidates were Conservatives – we could have proposed a Lib Dem but didn’t do so and a Lib Dem wouldn’t have won. However the vice-chairman of the committee will be elected on Wednesday by secret ballot. The two candidates are myself and Simon Smith , Conservative councillor for Whitehouse ward. It may be that this voting will go on party lines, in which case I lose 11-5. Or people may think that this is sucha minor position that having a Lib Dem in it wouldn’t upset the applecart – in which case I might possibly do better.
I should mention that elected a chair or vice-chair by a secret ballot is something I’d never heard of in local govt until this year.
The other six posts were elected by the full council, for a decision on a show of hands. However the only nominations were from the Conservative group. Basically they are the administration, with 32 democratically elected councillors, and they call the shots.
Now, how those 6 people were selected by the Tory group I’m not sure. I would imagine that the group as a whole voted on the 6 names, although it’s possible that Terry Cutmore ‘named’ his cabinet in the same way that Gordon Brown names his.
As for experience – Terry Cutmore and Keith Hudson have business experience and are leader and deputy leader. I believe that Peter Webster and Mavis Webster are both retired civil servants and of course they are very experienced local politicians- I understand that Mavis was a Labour councillor in London a while back as well . However it’s fair to say that Peter Webster virtually never uses a computer, although he is the cabinet member for the council website and indeed the whole of the IT.
As for Keith Gordon, I don’t know his background although he seems perfectly competent. Finally I don’t know Michael Starke’s background either, but he has a very good knowledge of his cabinet responsibility – recycling.
I don’t think the 6 could be described as figureheads – although that doesn’t mean I always agree with their views. Nor does it mean that I would have supported those 6 names if I was in the Tory group (perish the thought). What we need are more Lib Dem councillors!
– Cheers, Chris Black
Thanks Chris, I understand that the Tories want their ‘own people’ in positions of responsibility and to toe the party line, however they will not get the complete picture of how the electorate are feeling. This is very much an insular way of running a local council. The only way that a consensus of what people want is to get a cross section of Councillors into positions where these views are allowed to manifest themselves, this is especially true where Councillors are gagged. I suppose my views here of a consensual local government would be looked at as old fashioned but it makes sense to me and I would have though many other local residents. But in these days where the ‘party is God’ things are not likely to change.
Mike, you have identified a problem with the cabinet system here – it means that the cabinet gets to make decisions without hearing any non-Conservative views in advance. The cabinet members will get feedback from their own party group meeting, but won’t hear anything from an independent or Lib Dem.