Ever wondered what a Borough Councillor's role entails?

Ever wondered what a Borough Councillor's role entails?
I did! I was elected as a Councillor for the Lynn South & West ward of the Borough Council of King's Lynn & West Norfolk on 5th May 2011.

A little bit about me:
I have lived in South Lynn for 7 years with my wife and work locally for the Norfolk Primary Care Trust as an IT Manager.

I am a Labour Councillor and whilst the local Labour group made some encouraging gains in the May elections (moving from 4 councillors to 13) we are still very much a minority opposition as the Tories hold 42 of the 64 council seats.

Friday, May 15, 2015

This borough is sleepwalking into a local dictatorship

So the dust has settled on a disappointing election campaign, I've got over the nerve wracking count and the fact that I squeezed into office by just three votes and... then the bombshell was dropped. The council leader has decided to put forward a proposal that will see the Cabinet Scrutiny Committee changed from a body that specifically eschews the political proportionality rule to one that is made up on a proportionate basis.

The point of the Cabinet Scrutiny Committee is to assure the council and the people it represents that the decisions being taken by the Cabinet are given full consideration by elected representatives that have not been involved in making the decision - accepting that the current administration enjoys a huge majority at the council it is important that the decisions it makes are properly scrutinised and it is important that this is done by the opposition. Changing the proportionality of this body not only drastically reduces the number of opposition councillors entitled to sit on the committee but almost guarantees that any recommendation made by the committee can be voted down by a Conservative majority.

This is just a further erosion of the principles of democratic process in recent times as the same administration has:

Changed the constitution to remove the requirement for vice chairs of policy development, overview and scrutiny panels to be drawn from opposition councillors. This was done under the guise of the pool of opposition councillors being too small (when there were just 10) and was followed by rejection of a request to revert to this requirement when the pool of opposition councilllors doubled in size after the 2011 elections.
Selected non-councillors to represent the council on outside bodies, ahead of sitting opposition  councillors from wards that bear the focus of those outside bodies.
Removed councillors from outside bodies because they had the audacity to resign from the conservative group.
Controlled the supposedly non-political posts of Mayor & Deputy Mayor in each of the four years following the 2011 elections, despite the opposition making up at least one quarter of the council.

I am not sure why an administration with a majority of 38 councillors over and above the number of opposition members seems to be running scared of the idea of scrutiny; perhaps we opposition councillors should take it as a compliment that recent scrutiny has been too effective and made the cabinet and administration a little too uncomfortable.

I, for one, will be voting against the proposals and will be urging as many of my fellow councillors to do the same. If you are a resident of the Borough, I would urge you to contact your local councillor(s) and ask them to vote against it too.

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