Time to shake up local government

As we approach the May silly season, I find myself despairing at the future of local government. Many of our local councillors are complacent – and well they might be – since half of our seats are ‘safe Tory’, and the others can only be won by a lot of hard work. One problem for both ourselves and, presumably, the local Labour lot, is the shortage of quality candidates. Last time out, several seats in Wycombe actually elected Tories unopposed, because opposing candidates could not be found!

But what incentive is there to be a local councillor? Local councillors are still theoretically unpaid. There is an allowance, but it is a very modest sum compared to the average 70 hours a month that our district councillors give to their duties. Wycombe District has 60 seats – has the time come to reduce that to twenty or thirty who are all paid a reasonable amount for their time?

One thought on “Time to shake up local government”

  1. Alas, uncontested seats are a product of geography. In this years elections we have a higher number of these seats than usual – a combination of a lack of support on the ground, a real shortage of quality candidates and a lack of willingness for people to put themselves out. Although, we have seen a LibDem and an aligned independant walk-in this year, which is a bonus.

    Many people are content to complain from the sidelines without actually trying to do anything to sort it out. This year we have even seen a reluctance of some people to stand as paper candidates possibly owing to the unitary being a possibility here.

    On this issue of full-time councillors & allowances I think this needs addressing but only in terms of the following:

    1) Fixed terms for councillors – set a max of 12 years (three elections) in one continuous sitting. I have been a Town & a Dsitrict councillor for the past 8 years. Many of ours have been on the council for nearly 40 years and are now actually part of the problem. They are slow to bring in any reforms, content to preserve things how they were in 1976 and treat the council like a quaint parish council.

    2) Allowances set should be set indepentantly & not by members – I am a working member, so I use the allowance to offset the loss of holidays & wages I loose by attending council meetings & functions. Allowances going up to attract a wide cross section of society to stand doe help but on it’s own is not the answer.

    4)Scrap current arcane working practices of committees which favour retired people more than younger people, working people or people with families.

    3)Reform politics at the top because spin is killing politics for everybody.

    Dave.

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