Sunday, January 30, 2005
Wyre Forest Liberal councillor Mike Oborski recently described the so-called Standards Board for England as "plonkers". This, I now realise, is an understatement.
The more I hear about this public body, the more I have come to the conclusion that it is akin to a large festering vat of rancid goat semen.
I'm all for stamping out genuine corruption, but this body appears to have nothing better to do than to waste public money persecuting local councillors for making ribald comments or breaching some imagined protocols. The latest iniquity is the disqualification last December of East Riding Liberal Democrat councillor Colleen Gill for simply doing her job.
You can read the full story on Colleen's website. You can read more about the strange goings on in East Riding here.
A recent letter in the Yorkshire Post (12 January) highlighted the dangers of current trends:
"East Riding councillor Colleen Gill's suspension resulting from the intervention of the Standards Board for England continues an extremely worrying trend where councillors are punished for basically looking after the interests of their constituents.
If you wish to show your support, visit Colleen's website, sign the petition and make a donation.
"As with other recent rulings, including Hull and the East Riding, the common denominator is a councillor's desire to correct and, if necessary, highlight a perceived failure of a particular department which has caused grievance to their fellow resident.
"Should this trend continue, the role of the councillor will become ever more impotent; they will have increased trepidation of overstepping the mark when, for instance, questioning the advice of unelected officers.
"This only perpetuates the perception of an officer-led council and threatens local democracy due to an increased disenchantment by the electorate and a reduced enthusiasm for suitable candidates to stand for election."
In the meantime, I can thoroughly recommend the Double Standards website, which keeps tabs on the Standards Board's absurd behaviour. It sums up the problem succinctly:
The problem is that the Standards Board for England is NOT enforcing high standards.
Still, it could be worse. New Labour could be placing local councillors under house arrest.
It is in fact simply making it almost impossible for local councillors to express opinions and to articulate the views of their electorate.
More and more councillors feel that they are being needlessly harassed and persecuted to the serious detriment of local democracy.