Sunday, 16 January 2011

This consultation is meaningless

The following letter was sent to the Hounslow Chronicle last week by Isleworth-based community activist David Pavett, of the campaign group Campion Concerns. Whilst the views contained in the letter are entirely those of the author, I believe they raise some interesting issues and are worthy of wider circulation.

THE budget consultation document on which residents have been asked to comment is a new low point for Hounslow's local democracy.

It reduces the political process to the sum of (mainly) uninformed opinions. And the latter is, of course, difficult to distinguish from straightforward prejudice.

We are asked to comment on such things as the working conditions of council workers, whether particular teaching posts should be cut, and the Civic Centre's management of its fuel consumption. No background information is provided. On what basis are we supposed to decide?

Worst of all, in my view, is that buried in the consultation is a threat to area committees. These are the one point at which residents get a chance to engage with the political process and where members are able to investigate proposals of direct interest to their area.

This is the opposite of serious politics. It suggests that Hounslow Labour has no vision to offer. This explains its lack of a clear programme. That in turn reflects the alarming lack of political awareness of the average councillor. The sad fact is that most councillors have no more idea about the complex issues in the budget consultation than the average resident.

The point of the party political system is that different parties represent different political philosophies and offer different programmes for dealing with social problems and for giving guidance on new directions for society.

The parties should explain the principles on which they base their reasoning on detailed matters. In Hounslow the Labour and Conservative parties are very far from doing this.

This is political leadership in the form of a headless chicken. Neither Labour nor the Conservatives offer a clear programme to residents. Neither make clear anywhere in detail the basis on which they make their decisions. Neither has the habit of making the rationale for its decisions publicly available. Some individual councillors, of both parties, do their best to represent residents but they do so in a political vacuum. The political parties should explain their approach and their programmes in detail to the electorate. They could start by providing websites with this information. It speaks volumes that they have not yet done so.

Thornbury Road


Anonymous said...

Fair enough generally, but people often overlook the fact that councillors are just local residents like the rest of us.

Accordingly, the notion that they should possess more 'political awareness' than the average man in the street is somewhat flawed.
People stand for office for all sorts of reasons, many of them poorly equipped/qualified to represent the best interests of their constituents.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I'm amazed that a borough the size of Hounslow NEEDS 60 councillors and that they're expected to attend so many meetings.

It's hardly surprising that some councillors, especially first-timers, really struggle to keep on top of things.

Phil Andrews said...

Being a councillor is indeed very demanding and time-consuming. I have to say too though that of the six councillors the ICG had between 2006 and 2010 four were first-timers, and in my view all four did an exceptionally good job.

Anonymous said...

By the same token, on what basis are we supposed to elect councillors every four years ?

It could be argued that the information candidates choose to present us with is so limited and selective, it's just as unhelpful as being given no information at all !

Local democracy is a lottery whatever way you look at it.

Anonymous said...

I believe many residents feel totally isolated since the ICG lost its seats. Exactly what are the current Councillors doing? We hear nothing. No press releases, no
communications - nothing.