Thursday, November 28, 2013

Local government in Whitehaven - petition for an elected Mayor.

There has been some discussion on local press and internet sites in Whitehaven and Copeland about the possibility of changes to the system of local government.

One old chestnut which was originally floated yet again by Copeland Council, but has now been taken up by some local campaigners, is the idea of a Town Council for Whitehaven.

Another idea for which there is also a rather wider campaign is to replace the present "Leader and Cabinet" system on Copeland Borough Council by a directly elected mayor.

I have my doubts about whether a fifth tier of government for Whitehaven, which is what a Town council would be, would do much more than cost local taxpayers more money, for yet another layer of politicians.

However, I would support a referendum on a directly elected mayor for Copeland because at the very least it would spark off a debate about how Copeland Council can provide a more democratic and efficient service to local people.

My four years as a member of Copeland Borough Council were four of the most frustrating of my life, because getting anything positive done in the present structures of the council was like wading through treacle. At one stage the "choosing to change" process appeared to be showing signs of genuine reform, but I am told by some of the few sensible people who are still on the council that after the 2011 local elections this has largely stalled.

My preferred route to a more democratic Copeland would have been a return to the Committee System but unfortunately the Labour group who currently have a majority on CBC have no interest in this. The only alternative to the status quo is the possibility of a referendum for a directly elected mayor to replace the current leader of the council.

This should not be a party political argument. The option of directly elected mayors was brought in by the last Labour government and was endorsed by the present Conservative & Lib/Dem coalition, so there is support at national level from all three parties for this option. It should be a matter of local choice.

There is a lot of scaremongering from supporters of the status quo about the supposed extra cost, which I take with a bucketful of salt. It could be done in an expensive way, but if implemented intelligently it could also save money.

And I hope those who are currently collecting signatures for an elected mayor referendum get them, because Copeland needs that debate and local residents should be given that choice.

4 comments:

Jim said...

I think more control over the current council by the people who elect them is the way forward.

I think you are correct in your assessment that a new "town council" would only add to the tax burden of people and not acheive so much, more just take certain tasks from the current levels of government. The elected mayor is not a bad idea intself, though i would rather just see more control of the council in the hands of local people, starting will a system of recall, and local taxation referendums.

For all my railing about taxation, i really dont mind paying a fair amount for a police force, and to have my bin emptied. but when i see dustbins overflowing due to a lack of collections, along my road (which looks like the surface of the far side of the moon), the civic hall closing, astronomical parking charges in a town which most retailers have long since abandoned i have to wonder where is all the money we are charged going?

I think the fact that councillors know if they are not performing they can be fired by the public, and the council having to come to the people cap in hand for funding, rather than the people going cap in hand to them for services WHICH THEY HAVE ALREADY PAID FOR, would be a far surer answer than an elected mayor.

Jim said...

Though i must say i had never noticed until recently just how many cafés and coffee shops there are in Whitehaven.

The Mrs & I like to go out for a cooked breakfast generally on a Saturday, we got a bit bored with Morrisons and Weatherspoons so decided to try out the cafés in the town, they really are everywhere, so I guess whitehaven is still worth a visit, if you like cooked breakfasts, sandwiches, coffee and charity shops.

Sean Duffy said...

Hi Chris, would you like a petition, so that you could get signatures? It's available on http://mywhitehaven.net

Chris Whiteside said...

Jim

I would support a system of recall provided that is properly set up.

Sean, thanks for that, may well take you up on it.