Do you feel listened to?
I don’t like Council meetings. Too often procedural rules are used to control discussion for political point scoring. Take for example the rule you can only speak for 3 minutes in each debate, and only once. Supporters will claim this is to ensure timely decision making and plead for the Chairperson to enforce it, and yet they will freely ignore it when their turn comes. “Point of order!” is shouted more often to get a sword swing in than it is for its intended purpose of keeping debate on track. It is all a bit of a pantomime.
That is of course unfair because constructive debate does happen, and good decision making does occasionally slip through. Dare I say it – it may even be the rule not the exception in some groups. But nakedly adversarial politics stains the process. It’s unnecessary and it encourages a culture of coercion over cooperation.
This makes it hard for Councillors to speak out against other members of their group, even when they privately admit the views of their ward’s residents are not being represented. They fear their party whips. This needs to change.
It also re-enforces the public belief that local politicians are out of touch with their needs. This is both true and false at the same time. There are a number of very involved local councillors who go well above and beyond to represent their residents, and they often step in when other councillors fall short, however the gross pantomime of politics tars them all with the same brush.
Over the year and a half since I became involved with the Liberal Democrats in Tiverton, I have spoken with hundreds of local residents and their frustrations are often variations of the same – “Local politicians don’t listen to me; they don’t speak for me; they don’t act for me.”
In Castle, Tiverton, we are fortunate to have two very active Liberal Democrat councillors whom I have worked with since 2019. A refreshing change from 2015-2019 when I don’t recall having seen my local councillors even once. It was after working with the existing councillors on both town and District Councils and seeing how grassroots on-the-street campaigning and representation can make real, lasting connections with residents that I realised we can have a voice in local decision making.
The local elections in Tiverton on May 6th are our opportunity to improve this. Show the politicians who put their party whips before their residents that we have had enough. End the secrecy and inefficient, tribal decision making. Show our elected representatives that they serve us, not themselves. Councillors work better together not as adversaries, and May 6th is our chance to sow the seeds of improvement before the next full Mid Devon and Tiverton Town elections in 2023.
The Liberal Democrats are standing down candidates in some local seats where excellent local candidates from the Green Party and independents share our values of a fair, free and open society. Liberal, progressive, representative politics that give voices to you and I are a movement and a destination, not any one party.
I live and work in Castle, Tiverton. I have always put my money where my mouth is by investing in local businesses here, and supporting local causes to improve our community from mental health to environmental, financial and housing support groups. Having been so fortunate to grow up with the support of excellent youth groups, I fight passionately to provide better services for our local young people to help them develop into the best adults they can be. With the isolation of the current pandemic, we need to support them and their families now more than ever.
Stamp out pantomime politics in our local councils. Elect people who pledge to stand with you, for you, as equal members of your community, who will work across boundaries with the single goal – making your Council work for you.