Posted by: westlancashirerecord | July 16, 2017

On Being Whipped Or Not?

On July 6th West Lancashire LCC Councillor Paul Greenall  tweeted a request to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government “Dear @sajidjavid  do your comments under Rebuilding trust mean you oppose Party whips in Local Councils? Thanks, Paul”. This followed a speech to the Local Government Association. And on July 13th Cllr Greenall tweeted again “Dear @sajidjavid you have not answered my question sir, can you please do? Thanks, Paul”.

In local government it is reasonably assumed that the person you vote for is OF your community and the vote is FOR your community. In some parts of West Lancashire this is simply not true. How many elected members live in the wards they represent? In the case of the Tory county controlling party, it appointed Cllr O’Toole as “party whip” and Cllr Greenall is a self announced party rebel who in his question to the SoS C&LG is effectively asking for a view on O’Toole and can he, and other local whips, be trusted. Perhaps rebel Cllr Greenall might take matters into his own hands and refuse the whip he seems to dislike so much?

The SoS stated that “Local government is facing a looming crisis of trust”. Well, he wasn’t wrong there, was he, as we look at the scandal hitting the Tory county party as its leader is reported to have banned its chief executive and four other officers from briefings he attends?

“Whether you’re councillor or an MP, we are elected by our local communities to serve the people of our local communities – to ensure their interests are put first. After all, government is about serving people, not simply telling them what to do. And local government must show that it is FOR the people, not just OF the people. Above all else they must be listened to. They must be heard. It must be an honest and open discussion across all communities. Where consultation isn’t just treated as a legal necessity, but a genuine engagement in which all views even ones we don’t like are treated as if they could actually be right. So we need to rethink the entire process of development and, as ever, that starts with planning.

“Years after local plans were introduced, some councils still haven’t produced one. Others produced a plan when the policy was first introduced, but haven’t touched it since and are left with a dusty document that’s hopelessly out-of-date and irrelevant to the real needs of their communities. And then there are those councils that have an up-to-date plan, but have failed to be honest about the level of housing they need in their area.It’s not good enough. The era of tolerating such poor, patchy performance is over. Today I can confirm that this month we will launch a consultation on a new way for councils to assess their local housing requirements, as we promised in the Housing White Paper.

“Our aim is simple: to ensure these plans begin life as they should, with an honest, objective assessment of how much housing is required. That means a much more frank, open discussion with local residents and communities. It also requires a new approach.

“One that is straightforward, so everyone can understand the process. One that is transparent, so decisions are not hidden behind complexity or bureaucracy. And one that is consistent, so every community, from the biggest city to the smallest hamlet, can be confident their council is assessing housing need properly and fairly. Most people are willing to accept new housing in their areas, they know that their children and grandchildren need places to live.

“But they also don’t want to see massive development being imposed on an area where schools, GP surgeries, roads, buses and trains are already under pressure. They’ll accept the new homes, but they also want the right infrastructure put in at the right time in a joined up way. It’s not exactly an unreasonable request. I know that you are in local government for the right reasons.

“Because you want to house the homeless. You want to maintain the roads. You want to keep the streets clean or make our parks beautiful. You want to see that our young people are taught properly and our elderly are cared for with the dignity they deserve. Doing all this requires practical action, yes, but not everything can be converted into pounds and pence.

“Good leadership matters too. And ultimately, for all of us, whether we’re in local or national government, our first role is to lead. What happened in Kensington three weeks ago showed just how important leadership is. So my challenge for local government this year is not only to provide the services your communities deserve, or plan for new homes and growth they need, but also to be the leaders they can trust. To listen to your communities. To treat them with care and respect”. Did you read that, local Tory councillors in Aughton, Halsall, Burscough and beyond, where insults against the public have littered the scene just because the party allows its appalling leadership to do so?


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