We’ve published a couple of points recently concerning accountability of councillors – but an area of civic responsibility that has not been addressed is touched on in the recent report of the Boundary Commission, which is reshaping Boston Borough Council from the 2015 elections.The main aim of the review is to try to ensure electoral equality, which means that each councillor represents about the same number of electors.
Boston Borough Council currently has 32 councillors in 18 wards.
The commission’s recommendations proposed 30 councillors in 15 wards – with each councillor responsible to around 1,600 voters.
So far, so good – but what none of this tells us is how busy the members of the new look council will be.
Until last year’s election the council had been under no overall control since local government reorganisation in 1973 – but a strong Tory influence gave them the upper hand most of the time which allowed them to fiddle while Boston burned.
Since last election, when the Tories won control of the council, they have had the free run of the Worst Street asylum – which allows them to tinker with the works and generally rough up the people who elected them.
A point raised in Boston Eye last week by the Labour Group deputy leader Councillor Paul Gleeson was that new rules relating to the information required for the register of councillors’ disclosable pecuniary interests were very limited.
At the time they were adopted, he suggested that – for the purposes of transparency and openness – the register of interests that was applied before the introduction of the new regulations should continue, and that such interests declared by members as appropriate during formal meetings.
This motion was lost – presumably because the ruling Tory group preferred the idea of as little information being available as possible.
The Labour Group has been very persistent on the issue of information being made available to voters. They started with demands for a list of councillors’ attendances at meetings to be published on the borough council’s website – and now it is available it is proving to be quite an eye-opener.
Labour has also pressed for the introduction of annual reports compiled by individual councillors to show how well – or otherwise – they have represented the electorate and the area in the previous twelve months.
So what does this have to do with the Boundary Commission changes?
Well, now that representation is so specific – with 1,600 voters per councillor – the idea of an annual report makes a lot of sense.
For instance, we have no idea how hard our councillors work other than b y looking at their attendance record.
It may be that those who turn up to few meetings are doing twice the ward word of those who attend all lessons.
But we don’t know.
Over the past fifteen or so years, we have raised issues with local councillors on several occasions. We have also written to three different Chief Executives and two leaders during that time.
Generally speaking, the responses have been political rather than constructive in that they contain much in the way of mouth, but little in the form of trousers.
If things are the same at ward level, it would paint a portrait of a council that is little more than a home for largely retired people with time on their hands for whom an easy couple of thousand a year is a welcome bonus.
We’ve taken a look at the website of Kirklees borough council, which is cited by Labour as an example of best practice in providing specific information about the individual duties of councillors.
This makes it very easy to see which councillors are pulling their weight, and which are having a relatively easy ride.
We agree with the Labour group that the more information is made available to voters, the better informed they will be when it comes to deciding where to put their cross at election time.
As has often been said, politics should have no place at local level.
The quality and loyalty to voters shown by councillors is far more important than their political colours.
But don’t expect much by way of action.
After all, whilst the Tories all but duplicated their election literature for the recent Frampton and Holme election, the glaring omission was last year’s promise of increased transparency and accountability.
Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com