Posted tagged ‘local elections’

That was the Local Government week that was

May 4, 2012

It’s the morning after the election night before – let the counting commence

That was the local government week that was is meant to provide people with a nice round up of the week that has just gone. Unfortunately, most of the exciting stuff going on in local government happened overnight and whilst we like to be topical we’re not THAT topical.

However, whilst we do not have the election covered in any substantial way we know the people who do (and doubtless have spent much of the last night checking out their site). So before you read any more do get your morning election fix from the excellent LGiU site:

Although they are still working on the content you can check out all sorts of bits and pieces including:

  • information on when most counts are taking place and results expected to be declared – bit.ly/IjynMt
  • 70 Count Correspondents at the counts feeding us local insight and analysis –bit.ly/IjlnMj
  • collected and mapped data for all authorities holding elections – bit.ly/Irk2wK

Plus, check out their blog which will have been updated throughout the night and then whilst you are blog checking do check in with our friends at the Guardian Local Government Network whose liveblog in partnership with the (yes, you guessed it) LGIU has been a source of much local election happiness over the past 24 hours.

The LGiU share our passion for democracy and we’re really pleased they cover the local elections in the detail they deserve, including those that aren’t in London! Nonetheless, it’s always worth checking out their previous post on the 50 councils to watch to see how accurate they were.

The elections this time round are quite varied with mayoral elections, council elections and mayoral referenda. It is therefore interesting to see Harry Phibbs from the Conservative Home Local Government Blog admitting to doing a full about turn on his approach to Mayors:

In the 1998 referendum on setting up a Greater London Authority with a Mayor of London and London Assembly I voted No. This was despite the encouragement of the Conservative leader William Hague for Londoners to vote Yes. I thought that it would be another layer of bureaucracy. That despite the assurances of Tony Blair that it would prove a GLC Mark II – there would be inherent empire building.

Despite the eight years of Ken Livingstone, which in many ways confirmed my misgivings, I think that it is better to have accountability for services such as transport and policing rather than have them run by Quangos. Localism should mean that where possible powers should be devolved from City Hall to the London boroughs. But there is a need for a Mayor of London. So I think I was wrong to vote No.

Always good to see a politician admit to a mistake in the past and as he argues later in the post this is not a party political issue but an issue for each and every voter to make their own mind up about. We agree.

One other slightly worrying election related issue comes from London where apparently police are to guard voting booths:

Police officers are to be stationed at every polling station in Tower Hamlets after the Met launched an official investigation into allegations of electoral fraud. Officers will man all 70 polling locations in the borough on Thursday alongside borough enforcement officers to prevent voter intimidation.

The measures come as the Met launched an investigation into “unprecedented” evidence of voter fraud in the key London borough less than 48 hours before the mayoral polls open.

Police sources today admitted the measures were unusual.

Very unusual and really concerning for local government as the body responsible for making sure our elections operate as they are meant to. Definitely something worth watching on election night.

It is also worth remembering that whilst many news organisations will report the elections in a way similar to Reuters:

Conservatives face local polls backlash over recession

These are actually local elections and not a referendum on the Government. We’d all do well to remember that.

So, what about the rest of the goings on in local government land?

We liked this piece on the Equalities Act from the ever excellent Guardian Local Government Network which rather optimistically concluded:

The Equality Act, however, could offer the chance to place equality at the centre of local government work. “It’s not seen as an add-on any more. It’s work that people do, day in and day out,” says Mohammed Ilyas, policy officer at Harrow council. “I think we have definitely cracked it this time.”

I think the article summed it up pretty well and really hope local government will manage to make the most of the Equalities Act and not just see it as something they need to ‘comply’ with.

An interesting new site reached our notice this week. The Independent Local Government site, although we’re not quite sure where it has come from seems to be quite interesting. As they argue:

In England today local government is little more than an executive arm of central government implementing policy and budgets sent down from Westminster and Whitehall. Many would argue that this inhibits local growth and development. The House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee, chaired by Graham Allen MP, and the Local Government Association, are campaigning for independent local government. This Information Daily Focus Report covers all the issues and provides a valuable interactive resource, free to access, thanks to sponsorship from Boilerhouse Media Group

Again, not quite sure we agree with them in total but really glad these issues are getting a wider airing. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with the site and the wider campaign.

Welovelocalgovernment is a blog written by UK local government officers. If you have a piece you’d like to submit or any comments you’d like to make please drop us a line at: welovelocalgovernment@gmail.com

Election day in the jungle

May 3, 2012

The polling station is always quiet early in the morning

Welovelocalgovernment has built up a network of contributors from around the country. It was therefore no surprise when one of our local government friends sent us a transcript from a local election campaign headquarters.

The following briefing allegedly took place in the campaign headquarters of Simba the Lion in his campaign to win the local ward of Jungle East. The other voice in this transcript is that of his advisor Nyoka the snake.

S: Nyoka, what’s the update? Am I going to manage another term looking after the vines and managing the gradual decline of the forest due to logging decisions made nationally that strip my resources?

N: Wow, you’re in a cynical mood this morning

S: Must just be election blues; I’ll be alright in the morning. So how’s it going?

N: We’re right on track Mr S; as always the main concern on election day is getting out the vote. As usual I’m having a little trouble persuading the campaign volunteers to just talk to people they know are going to vote for us.

S: Ah Nyoka, now who is the cynic? Part of the joy of politics is the debate about issues with people who disagree with you. Should we be relaxed about tourists coming to gawp at us? Should we support limited destruction of our habitat if the rest is better protected? Should we be stricter about the local residents who throw their own faeces at passing animals and then hide in trees? What is my position on birds being given equal rights to animals? And what about the insects? These are the debates that matter and why people come out and vote.

N: On the contrary sir, those are the debates that matter in the weeks preceding the vote. Today, only turnout matters. We want our voters to show up and we want the Chuwi (Simba’s main opponent) supporters to stay at home.

S: Go on then; how is our get out the vote effort going?

N: Well, it’s the classic problem; we have pledges but I have no idea whether the animals were telling the truth. We’re particularly strong in the eastern section of the ward where the monkey vote looks firmly in your camp. However, you know the monkey’s; young, free-spirited and not particularly interested in politics. As always, we’re really concerned that they won’t turnout. However, we’ve got some really enthusiastic young female monkeys on staff and they’ve pledged to spend the whole day in the trees persuading them to come to the polls.

S: What about some of the hard to reach communities within the jungle?

N: A classic problem. I suppose there are two theories. Take the leopards for example; one is that we’ve just done a really bad job at reaching out to them but on the other hand maybe they just don’t really care about politics at all and don’t want to be reached. We’ve tried a bit this election but when push comes to shove we’re going to focus on the community that turns out.

S: So, how are we going with the tortoises?

N: Well, as you know we could manage nearly 100% turnout from the tortoises. For some reason the elderly members of the junlge have always had good turnout rates. My campaign volunteers are out there offering them lifts to the polls as we speak.

S: Lifts?

N: It’s best you don’t know the details sir but it involves monkeys, vines and tree trunks.

S: Erm, ok… So tell me; how did we do with the community leaders?

N: Well sir as you know we’ve had quite a robust community campaign; focusing on those individuals who are influential within their community. In particular we’ve focused on the elephants this year.

S: Always a success; they can be very hierarchical.

N: Well, it does seem to be shifting a little. The younger bulls are less likely to simply follow the advice of their seniors. We’re still trying but we might need to reach out to the whole community in the future.

S: Good advice Nyoka, we shall make a real effort on that in future years. So what about the bird community?

N: Well, your twitter account has been very successful at reaching out to them. (Boom boom!)

S: So, what do you think are my chances? Am I going to be returned as the councillor for Jungle East?

N: As always this will probably depend on the turnout of the small mammals; they are the classic swing voters and tend to vote for the candidate they think is going to win. Which is confusing as we never know who that is going to be. Nonetheless, we both know that Chuwi offended the antelopes with his ‘all look the same to me’ comments so I think we should be ok.

S: So, let’s move to the more important question. Will I get a cabinet position on the jungle council?

N: I’m working on it….

(Nyoka winked at his master and slithered out of the HQ.)

S: (whispered) Plausible deniability…

Welovelocalgovernment is a blog written by UK local government officers. If you have a piece you’d like to submit or any comments you’d like to make please drop us a line at: welovelocalgovernment@gmail.com

Independance

May 2, 2012

Independent of the politics but can she escape Sir Humphrey?

Election fever is all around; can you not feel it?

Ok, so maybe the election has not quite caught the imagination of the great British public in the way more national elections have done. However, there are always some interesting things going on and one of them is in London.

Now, as someone who doesn’t live in London I found it easy to assume that the battle in our capital is simply between our old friends Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone. Indeed, according to the polls that is exactly what it is and today’s post was almost about their entertaining rivalry.

However, according to one of the same polls I saw the candidate in third place is an independent former civil servant named Siobhan Benita. Admittedly she is languishing on 6% of the vote and in another year might have been just another afterthought on the ballot paper. However, amongst some of my Londoner friends the idea of the independent Benita has really caught on. They look at the sideshow that is Boris and Ken and think that perhaps there is a real need for an anti-politician to run things.

Indeed, apparently this is one of Ms Benita’s campaigning issues, as her campaign says on her website:

She is not a politician. She is a successful working mum who has resigned from her senior Whitehall job to run in the Mayor election.

She believes that the Mayor of London should represent people, not political parties and she will ensure that all voices are heard.

She is independent, honest and inclusive.

I’m sure she is all of the above but in trying to understand why she has only 5% of the vote I’m just not so sure she is right to focus so strongly on her being non-political.

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That was the local government week that was

April 13, 2012

After a week off the blue keyboard returns

What will the world be like in 2020? We love a bit of futurology and this piece from Claudia Megele on the Guardian Local Government Network gazes into the crystal ball and tries to make sense of local government in 2020. Just as a flavour of what you would see when you clicked through:

In spite of the coalition government’s bold rush toward privatisation of public goods and services, the profit-driven model will prove insufficient to tackle the complexity of problems and services required. The needs of citizens and communities will require co-ordinated services that will lead to a stronger recognition of the role of local government – and the eventual need to rebuild its capacity.

However, this will require local government to rethink its revenue sources, a renegotiation of labour relations, and rebuilding citizens’ views of community and society.

Local authorities are always on the look out for more cash and the latest opportunity is a tax the Government are planning to levy against late night pubs and other establishments. As the Independent report:

Local authorities are entitled to a greater share of a new £18m levy designed to force pubs and clubs to pay for the social cost of late-night opening, council leaders claim.

The cost of running services such as taxi marshals and street wardens to help to make Britain’s booze-soaked city and town centres safer in the early hours will not be met if the share of the proposed “late-night levy” remains capped at 30 per cent, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).’

This is just another example of two public agencies (in this case police and local authorities) fighting over resources which they would both use to tackle the same problem, together. We’ll fight it out for a few weeks and whilst it will impact our bottom line the services we provide will remain unchanged, on both sides of the coin. Sad really isn’t it?

We’re fans of local democracy and always slightly disappointed at the state of the current local democratic process. Thus, we were heartened to see a couple of blog posts this week looking at how we could improve that process. If you also care about this then do take a peek at this post from Puffles’ best friend and this one from the ever insightful Toby Blume. Toby ends with a classic call to arms:

 I may not want to go to a political rally, a public meeting or a local hustings, but that doesn’t mean I’m not interested.

Surely there are some social tech people who might usefully turn their attention to helping our political parties become more sociable in the interests of democracy and political engagement?

Let’s only hope there are people out there who are prepared to respond, and more importantly political parties who are willing to listen.

John Harris, one of the comment writers for the Guardian, is paid to have opinions and is therefore paid to be slightly polemical. The problem I often have with such a polemic is that it makes me angry even when you basically agree with it. And such was the case when I read Mr Harris’s piece about elected mayors. Entitled: Elected city mayors: the delusions and dangers of power freak politics’ Mr Harris argues:

What the great mayoral delusion really highlights is the modern establishment’s talent for messing with things for the sake of it, with no sense of history, experience, or even clarity about what exactly they want.

His argument is based in large on four parts of the country: Birmingham, where he doesn’t like the New Labour nature of possible candidates; Doncaster, where he doesn’t like the incompetent mayor; Liverpool, where he doesn’t want the current Leader of the Council to win and Manchester, which doesn’t have a Mayor, is successful and where the Leader agrees with him.

It would be fun to devote a whole blog post to dissecting Mr Harris’s bluster but shall we stick with this:

Low turn outs are prevalent in almost all of local government, incompetent politicians are not exactly unknown in local authorities, some mayors have been very successful, and you can’t dislike a system because you dislike the candidates or the diversity of candidates (Mr Harris had already set up these straw men before he lit his fire torch). Apart from that it was a well reasoned and thought through piece.

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