Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Councillors - communication & expenses; what the tabloid press won't say!

Once again the 'Stun' and the 'Tory Mail' continue to hoodwink the electorate - the former with outlandish tales of Council's wasting money on "surveys, adverts, questionnaires, public meetings, letter drops, focus groups and adverts to explain the impact of budget cuts" and the latter leading with an article yesterday on " Doing your civic duty never paid so well: How councillors' payouts have soared as local services face savage cuts".

It is somewhat galling for a first time campaigner like me to read this type of irresponsible journalism. 

Fact - the electorate WANT an open and accountable Local Authority so pray, Fleet Street hacks, how can this be achieved without communication? 

Fact - Mid-Sussex District Council recently voted for a reduction in Councillors' allowances, with Lib Dem support, by 5% in 2011-12.  The basic allowance in 2010-11 stands at £4,738.  If this is viewed as being paid “well” then maybe the journos on the same paper would like to be paid a similar amount?  Or would they consider a 5% cut in their salary?  Or maybe a cessation of their 'working lunch' expense accounts?

Whilst the Stun, Mail and Eric ‘I’m a man of the people’ Pickles can all take swipes at Local Government, how does this sit in with the flagship ‘localism’ bill which Cameron supports as part of his ‘Big Society’ ideal?  Equally would it really be fair to those  of us who volunteer hundreds of man-hours per year to undertake civic duties not to be reimbursed a token amount towards the actual expenses incurred?  Most of us do not abuse the system to provide for ornaments for our gardens after all!

Before suggesting that ALL councillors are feckless, money-grabbing and wasteful let’s start to embrace the fact that most of  these individuals, whatever their political colours, firmly believe in doing good for their communities.  Without them – what I wonder would those that criticise put in their place?

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