You may (or you may not) have wondered why I haven’t blogged since the General Election on 7th May. There are many reasons for this. Not only was I disappointed with the result of the election (which I believe was prejudiced by the media in general, and by the right-wing media in particular), I was also very disappointed by the result of the Parish Council elections in Stradbroke, which I believe were unduly influenced by candidates not observing the Representation of the People’s Act. But I suppose that’s water under the bridge, and an unimportant person like me should leave it be at that.
I have spent most of my adult life as a process manager, as a manager of arguable processes. That means I have had to look at how decisions are arrived at, at production processes (mainly for services rather than products), have had to ensure that decisions made have been backed up by a verifiable and acceptable means of making those decisions. That’s why, at the last two Stradbroke Parish Council meetings, I have made points of order, halted the meetings because they have not observed Standing Orders (basically instructions on how meetings should proceed). In the first meeting I took part in (in May), a councillor suggested the council suspend Standing Orders when I made a point of order. Today, the Chairman of the council shouted at me for making a point of order, and suggested, in a particularly aggressive manner, that I was quoting from Standing Orders that were not issued by Stradbroke Parish Council. Thankfully, the Parish Clerk corrected him on that matter. If we were allowed to suspend Standing Orders, we might as well suspend the Code of Conduct.
I’m afraid there is an issue with local government which is not confined merely to Stradbroke Parish Council. Many councils appear to labour under the illusion that they are the final arbiters of what is right or wrong for the village they claim to represent. The fact of the matter is that actually parish councils have very limited executive powers, if any. Many councillors in parish councils across the country (and I am still including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – and Yorkshire – in my definition of this country) believe that sitting on the parish council gives them the right to lord it over those who live in their parishes. They are wrong. The populace hold the balance of power. The problem is that the populace (except for the minute fraction who have time to attend parish council meetings) can’t see how much information their councils withhold from them. They believe the process to be transparent when it is not. They believe those who tell them that everything’s fine, that their interests are being represented, that due process is being observed.
At this evening’s meeting, it was claimed by the Chairman that Stradbroke Parish Council had managed itself very well by not observing procedures for the last two decades. Has it really? Is not the result of the non-observance of due process that we live in an increasingly fragmented and tribally motivated village? I despair of politicians who distort public opinion to fit in with their own aims. Furthermore, that comment suggests that any motions passed by the council over the last two decades has actually been passed illegally and would not stand up in a court of law.
One last comment – the public were this evening treated with disdain by the Chairman of Stradbroke Parish Council, which I believe to be a breach of the Seven Principles of Public Life. I find that appalling, sad, and reprehensible. It’s one thing to claim to be representing the people of Stradbroke; it’s another actually doing so.