Monday 2 November 2015

Petition; Curb unelected power and restore local democracy

If you agree with the following petition statement, which is so highly relevant to Carmarthenshire, please click here and add your signature;

Petition for Democracy in Local Government
"In recent years we have observed a trend in Welsh local government that has seen unelected officers effectively take control of local authorities. 
This is invariably achieved with the connivance of a small group of councillors who commit their loyalty to senior officers rather than to the council to which they were elected and those living within the local authority area. 
A phenomenon that raises a number of concerns.  
1. When power is exercised by senior officers and elected representatives are, effectively, excluded from the decision-making process then, clearly, the democratic process has been undermined, and democratic accountability lost.  
2. Excluding the majority of the elected representatives from any role other than the cosmetic must call into question why cash-strapped councils need to pay so much money in various forms to political eunuchs.  
We therefore call on the Welsh Government to be aware of this threat to local democracy and where it becomes clear that senior officers are exerting an unhealthy and undemocratic influence over the running of any local authority to warn that authority publicly that decision-making powers rest solely with the elected representatives and, where such a warning is not heeded, to take that authority into special measures. 
Senior local government officers, no matter what their qualifications or how inflated their salaries, remain employees of the council and servants to the electorate and the wider population. That they should subvert democracy by taking over the running of the local authorities that employ them is both unacceptable and dangerous. 
Yet this is the situation we find in a number of our local authorities, but for reasons best known to itself the Welsh Government has turned a blind eye to the situation, even though the problem of officer domination has been obvious for a number of years."

Click here to access the petition on the Welsh Government website


Whilst I'm on the subject of petitions, there's not a glimmer yet of the promised ePetition page on the council website. This facility, common in English councils (along with publishing spending details and allowing the public to film all open meetings etc....) enables residents to directly petition the council, (as long as it passes the inspection of the chief executive..) triggering a debate if sufficient signatures are collected.

This is something I've called for for a few years and the WLGA, following the publication of the Governance Review in November 2014, expected its recommendation for an ePetition page to go live within three months.

It was not only the WLGA who thought this was a good idea but so did the council's own IT strategy, also dating from last November;

"Detachment from the political process is a big issue, with election turnout being as little as 23% in one area of Carmarthen in the last Council Election. Everyone can view e-petitions online and they are easy to sign. They encourage transparency when petitions are debated and increase public engagement with the Local Authority".

A year on, we're still waiting.

I'll let you know if it ever appears.


Anonymous said...

You need to do more to promote this petition. It currently stands at 88, which is hardly a fantastic number, despite all the views and comments I'm sure your blog gets.

Perhaps you cold get it printed in The Herald, but somehow it needs more exposure.

caebrwyn said...

Anon 17:47
The petition runs until December 31st and I would be grateful if it could be shared as much as possible, it applies to all Welsh local authorities.
The petition will be considered by the Welsh Assembly Petitions Committee but please, the more signatures the better.