Posted by: westlancashirerecord | January 15, 2018

Why Do Some Politicians Wallow In Ignorance?

What a good question, as we see the general carping from a very junior councillor about others who can show superior knowledge and service to his. It’s the Derby ward “independent of Labour and Conservative” Our West Lancashire councillor Adrian Owens  who asks it.

He writes “A supposed advantage of electing people from different walks of life to a Parliament or Council Chamber would be that better decisions are reached. Elected MPs or councillors bring expertise; knowledge or life experience to the subjects under debate. In return, they are listened to, proposals modified and better decisions reached. For all its faults (and I happen to favour an elected second chamber), the House of Lords very often reflects this well. If only the same could be said of West Lancashire Borough Council. Instead we regularly see two tribes going to war. Any comment made by someone not in their tribe is one to be dismissed out of hand.

“At the council meeting just prior to Christmas, Skelmersdale Councillor, Claire Cooper had tabled an important motion on fire safety in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy. As I work professionally in health and safety, including fire safety, I suggested that Cllr Cooper might want to strengthen her motion which was a representation to the Government on how national fire policy should change after the tragedy in Kensington.

“I made a suggestion about defining what was meant by high rise building (was it five storeys, 10 storeys or what?) using the current definition in current building regulations. I also put forward that if we really wanted to create a positive impact on fire safety that we should lobby the government to require sprinklers to be fitted in all new Care Homes in addition to the calls in the motion for sprinklers in high rises and schools. After all, fires in care homes such as Rose Park and Newgrange only 8 months ago have claimed more lives in recent years than school fires.

“Councillor Cooper is the sort of councillor that West Lancashire needs. She is very active in her community and prepared to listen. She agreed to amend her motion to take on board and strengthen it.

“Alas, we reckoned without the more typical tribal West Lancashire Councillor. Cllr John Hodson a Labour cabinet member quickly jumped in and bullied his group to stick to the straight and narrow pre-rehearsed wording. Perish the thought that anything put down on paper before the meeting could possibly be improved through the process of debate. Then we had a Conservative councillor misunderstand how sprinklers work, though afterwards in private he had the good grace to apologise. Meanwhile another Labour councillor showed his complete ignorance by stating that burnt toast could set off a sprinkler. Anyone watching the debate would have been dismayed at many of the contributions, often from councillors woefully ignorant of the subject or simply tribal”.

And, possibly with Cllr Currie in mind among others he quotes “He knows nothing; and he thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career.” George Bernard Shaw. How apt! Read the article here


  1. Cllr Owens is quite incorrect (again) in his interpretation of events in yet another failed attempt to try and hijack a motion to try and claim something on the Council Agenda which others have put forward as their own motion- because the reality is that as a political group, the OWLs cannot put anything through Council due to the pure democratic mathematics of how the Council is represented through the political balance. In his endeavours to think of more and more creative ways around this simple fact, he doesn’t stop to think that there may be very good reasons why his amendment was rejected at my suggestion, namely that I too have some experience in this field with a background in Construction of over 4o years.

    I have been following the developments following the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy especially the Building Control element of the refurbishment program of the flats. The Inquiry may well result in recommendations for drastic changes to Building Controls covering Fire Safety and especially looking at the ‘Drive By’ box ticking type of inspections which amount to corner cutting in terms of specification. Building Regulations covering hi-rise are complex and specifically need clarifying through due process – not through a chancer amendment on the hoof. There was nothing ‘tribal’ about my intervention, it was based on the common sense of letting the professionals make the recommendations.

    I am not too surprised by Cllr. Owens shooting from the hip – thats what he does- as it wasn’t too long ago ( last year) that he was seeking to castigate me for not removing money allocated to Building Control from the budget claiming that I was “far too complacent in not making cuts wherever we could” Which is unwise in the extreme in the post Grenfell context. No doubt, when he was an active and prominent member of the Conservative Party he supported the Government changes to allow private Building Control businesses to compete with Local Authority Building Control which it can be argued can lead to a deterioration of standards of which the Grenfell Tower Inquiry may expose.

    Regards, Cllr. JE Hodson, Portfolio for Planning WLBC

    • Thanks for this input, which causes me to think that because WLBC was always, at least in my experience, tribal, ie two parties and no outside/independent contributions, the two main parties will always appear to be tribal. And you have stated “there may be very good reasons why his amendment was rejected at my suggestion, namely that I too have some experience in this field with a background in Construction of over 4o years” so is that a reason to ignore what Cllr Owens believes he knows about the Motion? Cllr Owens made some very kind and appreciative remarks about your party member, would a “Tribal Tory” have made them?

      • My main point is that Cllr. Owens was seeking to substitute Cllr. Cooper’s Motion which had been debated and agreed at our Labour Group meeting and which I supported because it raised concerns without seeking to be prescriptive i.e. getting into the technical elements of Building Control. My thoughts were that Cllr. Owens amendment sought to complicate rather than clarify the motion as there are specific Building Control requirements which are currently too broad in their scope allowing different Authorities to have contradictory interpretation. I am certain that they will ultimately emerge from Inquiry and until such comes forth it is not for us to try to speculate what should or should not be included for different types of structures and buildings. I was simply responding to Cllr. Owens’ attack upon my motives at Council. He is wrong as the motive was as I stated and not for ‘tribal reasons’ as he asserts. Knowing Cllr. Owens’ background i.e. Tory Parliamentary Candidate for two General Elections and former Deputy Leader of the Tories, he would not be making complimentary comments about Cllr. Cooper out of generosity of spirit but likely more to do with attempting his age old practise of ‘divide and rule’ straight out of the Tory handbook!

      • Well, far be it for me to challenge Cllr Owens’ motives and his perceived attack on yours, I suspect that tribalism is inherent in all council matters at WLBC and nothing will change that. I do though wonder if Cllr Cooper was at all dismayed by what seemed to be helpful advice and might she not have said so? I admit to sharing what Cllr Owens writes with the public because a little independence might go a long way in time, and anyone who has left the Westley led local Tory party while it drifts into oblivion is OK by me.

  2. I didn’t seek to substitute Cllr Cooper’s motion which was excellent. I sought to suggest additions which would have strengthened it – something Cllr Cooper recognised and was willing to accept. Nothing I said related to building control – perhaps Cllr Hodson wasn’t listening to what I said in the debate. That might explain, though not excuse his subsequent intervention.

    My blog piece explains the improvements I suggested. It is a matter of regret that our council’s submission to the Government did not include asking them to consider fitting sprinklers to new care homes due to Cllr Hodson’s intervention.

    • Thanks for the contribution, especially about Cllr Cooper,none of which can be remotely described as tribalism, which I think is where we came in?

  3. It was not I that raised the issue of ‘tribalism’. Cllr. Owens asked if Cllr. Cooper would accept his amendment, which if carried would ‘substitute the original motion thus becoming the substantive motion in itself. The comments made by Cllr. Owens are or should be covered by any subsequent review of Building Control Regulations and that is why I advised against accepting his amendment because to do so would have meant wandering into speculation about the shortcomings of Building Control before the facts have been established. This is not ‘tribalism’ and I reject the accusation completely. Not the first time that Cllr. Owens is guilty of traducing fellow Councillors to score a point!

    • I accept it was Cllr Owens who raised the issue of tribalism, but that’s what the public see regularly in Council, like the walk-out of the full “Tory Tribe” recently that left people who elected them without representation in the chamber. Surely you can see why any other councillor might score a point at their expense, I would be disappointed if they didn’t? And, let’s face it, Cllr Cooper has been acknowledged as “excellent” by Cllr Owens, but has she been “traduced” by her excellence? Hardly.

      • I took umbrage at myself being traduced not Cllr. Cooper. I totally agree with you when you say that the Tories walk out was a dereliction of duty, incredibly when the order of the Agenda was altered to take motions first, despite previously advising us in writing that they intended to leave. Cllr. Wesley led his band ‘once more into the valley of death’ only to see them slaughtered in debates in which they proceeded to self-contradict and bluster. For Cllr. Owens to include myself as the same as the Tories is a traducement!

      • I say, with respect, that you are a bit long in the tooth, political tooth, to have thought you were traduced. Be that as it may, in describing Wally Westley and his band, as you do, entering the Valley of Death, slaughtered in debates, self contradicting, blustering, only confirms how lucky you and your party are that the official opposition is at its lowest ebb, but how long might that last? Tory leadership issues are rife, how long before that is shown locally. Make hay while the sun shines, which is probably what independents might also be thinking?

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