Monday, November 7, 2011

Today is the day I would have to resign....

....if I was elected at the local elections as a Councillor to the District and/or the Town Council. Why? Because having been elected I wouldn't have turned up to any meetings. Therefore I would have to resign or forfeit my seat(s). Why won't I turn up to meetings? Because there are other things I want to do and the money for being a Councillor is pretty abysmal.

The public wants our Councillors to take informed decisions but without much remuneration. I could understand these low rates of pay if people were falling over themselves to stand for election. They are not.

At the last elections many Parish Councils failed to have an election because many didn't even have enough candidates. This also goes on at District. There maybe 3 candidates on the ballot paper but probably only one wants to stand and maybe even win.

This is the problem. The lack of candidates means many people how stand don't want to win. These are known as "paper candidates". This means there is an illusion of how many people actually are standing to win with many just standing for their party.

The local political system is slowly failing. This isn't something new and has been happening for decades. The electorate want our local politicians not to be paid, but are on the most part unwilling to do the job themselves. It is not as though the number of candidates for each seat is massive. Whilst the public want their local representatives to be paid nil they show no inclination to do the jobs themselves.

The problem is compounded with the political parties putting people up who don't want to win or if they do win they want to take a back seat and turn up every so often. These paper candidates do little for the political process and stop those who are willing to work for their community for nil or little payment from gaining a seat.

The only solution I see to this problem is to reform local politics. Do we need 21 Town Councillors? I don't think so. 7 or 9 are the right number. Do we need 52 District Councillors? Probably not. Cut the number by half. Do we need 69 County Councillors. We I say no. We need about 35.

Any pay them for doing this job. I feel being a Town Council should attract £20,000 a year but be paid pro-rata for a 4 hours a week would bring in £2,000. The same for District Councillors who should get roughly 2 days a week or £8,000. County Councillors should be paid £30,000 a year and be paid pro-rata at 2.5 days a week or £15,000. And I would dump the "Public Service discount" from their pay.

Special responsibility allowances should be scrapped. There is nothing special about being on say the Planning Committee. Nor is there anything special about chairing a committee. Leaders and Cabinet members should be paid more for doing what is really an extra job on top of being a Councillor.

For this money local Councillors should be accountable. Not turning up to meetings should mean a pay deduction and their attendance records should be public. Also they should only serve on one Council at a time. Gone should be the days of a Councillor being on 2 or 3 different Councils.

I still believe where the Council finances are out of balance the local politicians should take a pay cut. Though how this is determined might not be a simple as it seems.

The Councillors can be their own worst enemies by not standing up for more pay and wanting the "Public Service" discount to continue. The political parties continue to put up candidates who have no intention of winning.

And I can understand why those who seek election are put off. It sounds easy to stand but then you have to go round and campaign for a few months of the year to try to get elected. Much time and effort for little payback.

Instead of hanging onto the old public service discount Councillors must be elected to do a job and must be paid for doing so. Either we end up with properly paid local politicians or local democracy will continue to fail.

I do feel our local politicians must be paid and paid correctly. If it was as such an easy job people would be applying by their hundreds. They aren't. The political parties have problems in recruiting people to stand. Time to change and make being a local politician a job worth doing in terms of pay.

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