Friday, 14 March 2014

"Do you want to be a councillor?" ............................................. but "Why stand for election?" ask the younger generation...

An interesting evening was had last night:
Futures Forum: Do you want to be a councillor? Advice evening 13th March... but you must register by 28th February... presented by the Parliamentary Outreach Service

Especially with the contributions from the District's young people, who have been campaining against the proposed cuts to youth services:
Futures Forum: "Young campaigners denied a voice at Devon County Council budget meeting"

With things hotting up on that particular front:
Torridge and North Devon councils to debate Devon County Councils cuts at special meeting today | North Devon Journal
Exeter and East Devon teenagers continue their battle to save Devon County Council youth centres from closure | Exeter Express and Echo
Devon County Council plans to cut youth worker jobs lacks transparency claims union | Exeter Express and Echo

Two very sharp observations of the meeting on how to become a councillor:


March 14

A special event at Knowle yesterday evening, involving the Parliamentary Outreach Service , was excellently organised by EDDC officers. Around 80 people attended the event, which had been advertised as an advice evening for prospective councillors. The session began well with a lively talk by Elizabeth Price of the Parliamentary Outreach service, who gave a quick overview of Parliament. The audience, including EDDC Leader Paul Diviani,listened attentively as she explained how its essential role is to hold government to account, represent the public, and to raise key issues. They also heard about parliamentary processes and, usefully, how to raise an issue in Parliament. The informal cross-party groups (All Party Parliamentary Groups, APPGs), may be of particular help to EDA as a member of Community Voice on Planning (www.covop.org). Ms Price also made a reference that seemed especially apt to the Knowle venue: she quoted Winston Churchill’s words, “We shape our buildings, and our buildings shape us”.

Julien Bassham of the Cabinet Office then described the Individual Electoral Registration (IER) reform which will be introduced in June 2014. It will concern only those people newly applying to register to vote, who will be required to give their Department of Work and Pension number along with their name. The aim is to prevent electoral fraud,largely in postal voting, where registration has sometimes been made by household. Questions from the audience showed some concern that this huge IT exercise could go awry (as with the NHS). We’ll soon see!

The high standard of presentations was impressively continued by George Downs and Alfie Weaver, speaking about the work of the Youth Parliament, the British Youth Council, and Devon Youth Service. George described various community action projects in detail, including the ‘Make Your Mark’ initiative to encourage young people to get involved, with the message that “Issues that matter, are politics in disguise”. Alfie stressed that the Devon Youth Service has no Party affiliation, but is “issue-affiliated”.

What a contrast this was, to the political mindset of the following speaker, EDDC Deputy Leader, Andrew Moulding. His closing talk was mostly based on trivialities (dogs harrassing political canvassers) and the implication that opponents’ leaflets (in this case, Councillor Douglas Hull’s) are only fit for the dustbin. No attempt was made to inform the listeners about what councillors do. This abysmal anti-climax to the evening provoked a sharp reaction from the audience.

“Why stand for election?” Ask the younger generation…. | East Devon Alliance

Sparks fly at EDDC elections event this evening

Thursday, 13 March 2014 7 Comments by Claire
There were a few heated exchanges at tonight’s elections event, which was put on by EDDC.

With around 80 or so people were present, the event kicked off with a presentation on parliament and how decisions are made and laws passed. It was really interesting and very well articulated, by a locally based civil servant, who was obviously passionate about her job.
Next up, after a very pleasant sociable coffee and cake break, was a presentation by someone from the cabinet office, about how registration is changing for elections. The jist was that people will soon need to register individually, rather than someone being allowed to register on their behalf.
Then, youth campaigners, 17 year old Alfie Weaver and 16 year old George Downs presented on their work for the youth service. George explained about his role in the youth parliament.  And Alfie told the group what work he had been doing within schools and the community, helping young people.  He explained that much work was currently ongoing to challenge the youth review.
After this excellent presentation, deputy leader, Cllr Andrew Moulding, said a few words on campaigning for election and being a councillor, (including words of advice from former EDDC leader, Ted Pinney, accounts of dog bites and leaflets being thrown in bins). 
Unfortunately, the talk went down badly with some attendees, who were hoping to hear more about the work of a councillor and less about the hazards of putting your hand through a letterbox, with a silent but aggressive dog on the other side.
During questions, West Hill resident, Philip Algar, raised his hand.  He asked why the council was lacking in democracy and why the ruling conservative group tended to vote en bloc at full council meetings.
The question received a smattering of applause and started an outbreak of muttering.
Cllr Moulding replied that if the tory whip (Cllr Phil Twiss) had been present, he would have confirmed that no whipping of conservative councillors ever takes place.  This remark received a few derisive murmurs and prompted Alfie Weaver to raise his hand.
Alfie asked why, when he had brought his fellow youth campaigners to address the county councillors on budget day (20 February), had Cllr Moulding been part of the bloc conservative vote against allowing them to speak.
Cllr Moulding first replied that the young campaigners hadn’t registered in time. Alfie put him straight. They had, but had been told they couldn’t speak.
Cllr Moulding said he didn’t know about that but went on to say that if the council (Devon County Council) had allowed the youth campaigners to speak, they would have had to allow the badger campaigners to speak and maybe other members of the public.
I hadn’t intended to say anything this evening but this comment was so ridiculous that I put up my hand to respond. Out of a six hour meeting, this would have meant SIX MINUTES of time spent listening to the public!
Other hands also went up.
However, the chairman, Cllr Graham Godbeer, perhaps sensing that a can of worms had just been opened, hurriedly closed the meeting.
1. At 11:15 pm on 13th Mar Conrad Black wrote:
I do hope that Alfie Weaver is not deterred from taking a positive interest in politics, rather than being dispirited by the performance of Messrs Moulding (if someone else were here they could tell you something completely irrelevant) and Godbeer (I can’t face the music and dance) as typical examples of the ilk.  These are the depressing people who have the barefaced cheek to describe themselves as the Conservative East Devon District Council (see advertisements in the local press).  They are not.  They are merely elected Conservative Councillors serving on the East Devon District Council. 
Or maybe Alfie is right.  They refuse to listen, pontificate on things they know nothing about, and ignore the people they are supposed to serve.
2. At 11:24 pm on 13th Mar Sandra Semple wrote:
Let’s hope the experience has persuaded all 80 or so to become Independent candidates!
3. At 07:40 am on 14th Mar Roger Giles wrote:
I have seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears Conservative Councillors who voted the wrong way getting bawled out at The Knowle. Yet the claim is made yet again that the EDDC Conservatives do not use a whip.
4. At 09:46 am on 14th Mar Sandra Semple wrote:
But isn’t it always said that the better a whip is the less you think you see or hear of him or her?  A word here, a glance, there, a hint here, a bit of body language there….
5. At 10:10 am on 14th Mar Tim Cope wrote:
The meeting was planned for between 6pm & 9pm, was the meeting closed early????
6. At 10:30 am on 14th Mar Claire wrote:
Hi Tim, no it wasn’t closed early, I think it had gone over a bit, but there would have been no harm in hearing the subsequent comments and questions - except to the local conservatives, I suppose.
7. At 11:11 am on 14th Mar Philip Algar wrote:
My observation was what was the point of becoming a councillor when so many decisions are made behind the scenes and merely rubber-stamped by councillors in full session, backed by the dominant political party. I said that I was concerned by the lack of transparency and the role of national parties in local government. During the meeting and afterwards I was assured by three councillors that they had never been whipped and I was expected to believe this.  Even is this were true, I know that there are other ways of ensuring that party members vote the “right” way.  As usual, on the topic of the Knowle, I was informed that there was too much misinformation in the public domain.  If this is true, why does the council not offer us proof that what they are saying is correct and provide us with accurate and full information?  I pointed out that if the council claims that 900 people attended the Sidmouth march when there were thousands,  it loses credibility. What I would have added in the public session if time had been allowed for adult discussion, instead of daft stories about a councillor being bitten by dogs and putting flyers in a dustbin,  was that many councillors lack respect for those outside their own party. Independents, voted in by council tax payers, unlike so many on the council,  are treated as some alien species whose views are assumed to undermine democracy as the councillors define it. Apart from their rude and discourteous behaviour to the independents, it is these councillors who are undermining democracy. Why do they ignore the public, as they waste more of our money? Of course,  I forgot. So much of what they do is commercial so we cannot be told and independents who ask relevant questions on our behalf are always, by definition, talking nonsense and are troublemakers.


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