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Offline swindonlinkman

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Councillor Pajak to Propose Local Referendum Motion
« on: September 16, 2008, 08:37:53 AM »
Motion to a meeting of the full council on Thursday 25 September proposed by Councillor Stan Pajak:

'That Swindon Council notes that it is the policy of the current Government to introduce directly-elected Mayors.

'That the Council also notes that in other local authorities where elections have been held, the democratic process has come alive and all of the main political parties have taken part along with independent candidates.

'That the Council is aware that there is significant campaign among the people of Swindon for a referendum to be held on whether or not the Council should adopt a Mayoral form of Executive Arrangements, and believes that the people of Swindon should have the opportunity to take part in a referendum. The Council recognises that such a referendum would not be to elect a Mayor, but that its result would be binding on the Council to adopt a Mayoral form of Executive.

'That the Council agrees, therefore, to conduct a referendum at the earliest possible moment, and authorises the officers to agree the detailed arrangements and make preparations for a revised Constitution to accommodate a Mayoral form of Executive in the event that the outcome of the referendum supports the election of an Executive Mayor.”



Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Councillor Pajak to Propose Local Referendum Motion
« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2008, 03:09:57 PM »
 
 
'That Swindon Council notes that it is the policy of the current Government to introduce directly-elected Mayors.

'That the Council also notes that in other local authorities where elections have been held, the democratic process has come alive and all of the main political parties have taken part along with independent candidates.

'That the Council is aware that there is significant campaign among the people of Swindon for a referendum to be held on whether or not the Council should adopt a Mayoral form of Executive Arrangements, and believes that the people of Swindon should have the opportunity to take part in a referendum. The Council recognises that such a referendum would not be to elect a Mayor, but that its result would be binding on the Council to adopt a Mayoral form of Executive.

'That the Council agrees, therefore, to conduct a referendum at the earliest possible moment, and authorises the officers to agree the detailed arrangements and make preparations for a revised Constitution to accommodate a Mayoral form of Executive in the event that the outcome of the referendum supports the election of an Executive Mayor.”



I will be amazed if Councillor Pajak delivers this motion, unaltered, tomorrow evening.

By now, the various party political machines will have stirred themselves into action and begun process of back-room wheeler-dealing which blocks each and every move to return any meaningful measure of Town Hall influence to the common voter.

The responsibility for getting a genuine and sensible Elected Mayors debate going has always been with the electorate, (despite what Councillors and MP's would have you believe), and I think tomorrow nights council meeting will serve as a timely reminder that 'box-ticking' and party political self-interest will always try to prevent the general voting public from electing their own, truly accountable leader, to their Council.

That isn't to say that this will always be the case. If we do manage to have a decent debate, (from which our local politicians will almost certainly abstain), which is followed by a local referendum, we can rest assured that, just like National politicians, the local councillors will leap aboard whichever bandwagon appears to be winning the argument and claim it as their own.

Most local councillors are, metaphorically speaking, constantly holding a whetted finger up, testing the prevailing political breezes. The breeze we're causing by just having a little pre-debate discussion sees them stuffing their hands deep into their pockets. 

The irony of tomorrows motion is that, whatever happens, it's almost certain that the electorate will have to organise and hold its own debate. Local councillors will look after their own party-political interests by simply sitting on them. A very real demonstratum of covering your own arse with, errmmm.....your own arse!

I very much doubt that tomorrow nights vote will be recorded so the only way any of us will learn which councillors supported Councillor Pajaks motion is to wander along and see the vote for yourself. This does mean you'll need to sit through over an hours worth of party-political pantomine point scoring....but it's cheaper than bingo, bowling or the boozer.   

If you do go, don't be fooled into thinking that your presence will give any councillor pause for thought. The next local election isn't until May 2010 so they are not interested in you until April of the same year.

Every member is expected to attend tomorrows council.

The meeting starts at 19.00hrs prompt and members of the public, (people like us), are well advised to sign in at the reception desk of the Euclid Street Civic offices by 18:45hrs.

A map to Euclid Street can be viewed by clicking here 


Offline swindonlinkman

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Re: Councillor Pajak to Propose Local Referendum Motion
« Reply #2 on: September 24, 2008, 03:39:13 PM »
The motion that will be discussed on Thursday is now:

"That Swindon Council notes that it is the policy of the current Government to encourage directly-elected Mayors.

That the Council also notes that in some other local authorities where elections have been held, the democratic process has come alive and all of the main political parties have taken part along with independent candidates.

That the Council is aware that there is a significant campaign among the people of Swindon for a referendum to be held on whether or not the Council should have a directly elected Mayor and believes that the people of Swindon should have the opportunity to take part in a referendum.

That the Council agrees, therefore, to encourage people to support the online petition at www.talkswindon.org/petition to hold a referendum on whether Swindon can have a directly elected Mayor.

Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Councillor Pajak to Propose Local Referendum Motion
« Reply #3 on: September 25, 2008, 11:25:48 AM »
 
 
Rod Bluh says this in his weekly adver column:

[float=left][/float] No surprises here then.

Although it's patently obvious from Swindonlinkman's post above that Councillor Pajak's new motion is intended to seek support for a referendum which would allow the Swindon electorate to express a preference for the type of leadership it thinks Swindon Borough Council, and therefore they, the voters should have....I'm left with the impression that Rod & Co have decided that, as far as the council is concerned, they will decide the issue on our behalf again this evening.

As much as Rod and his colleagues might like to settle this definitively at tonight's council, it is not actually within their power to do so. The Local Government Act empowers Swindons voters to make this choice regardless of the obstacles, spin and rhetoric the party politicists place in their way.

I'll repeat this again, (and will do so as many times as needed): Those of us who are campaigning for a referendum on the issue are doing so because the voters of Swindon have already been unfairly denied the opportunity to make this choice in 2001.  What we wish to encourage is an informed debate which begins with an examination of the process by which Cllr's Mike Bawden, Sue Bates and Mike Evemy managed to change the councils own constitution without a council debate.

It is possible that our council is operating a leadership model for which it has no proper or fair mandate.  It is possible that, at some future point, we could ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to review the councils 2001 decision, but at this point we would much prefer that our Councillors take an honest and in-depth look at the councils past actions, and admit that what happened was simply wrong, unfair and did not best serve local democracy in Swindon.

Unfortunately, what we are seeing from our elected representatives is a flat refusal to discuss the 2001 events and an unseemly political scramble to rush past any discussion of them. Put simply, I think they believe that they can adopt a central-government attitude of ignoring inconvenient truths and weaving a defensive blanket out of half-truths and moody statistics, none of which counter the basic and central truth that this issue is wholly owned by the electorate and it is they, the electorate who will decide whether to debate, vote on and adopt, or not, an Elected Mayor.

Politicians are quick enough to beat a path to your doorstep and your vote at election times but, where matters of democracy are concerned they remain remarkably reluctant to listen or talk to you for the next four years. Fair enough, this is one situation where democracy and law empowers voters to act unilaterally.

Anyway, to Rods article....

I like Rod and I have great respect for him as a person, but as a politician he's begining to sound increasingly flatulent, nervously so.

He is quite right to request we divorce BoJo from any discussion of Elected Mayors. Boris is the Mayor of an administrative region, not a town, and as such is an irrelevance to us, albeit an amusing one.

Rod's reference to Swindon town football club is totally lost on me and using the resurgent Swindon Speed Camera debate as an indication that local Councillors are more 'media worthy' than Elected Mayors is a piece of spin so flimsy that even Alistair Campbell would cringe at it. TS readers will probably recall that when Cllr's Peter Greenhalgh and Andy James first raised the possibility of withdrawing from the Wiltshire Safety Camera Partnership the story was 'done to death' locally, but nationally speaking it completely flopped.

It was, I suggest, a dramatic 'own goal' by South Swindon MP Anne Snelgrove which catapulted the story into eye of the national media.  Anne thought it would be a decently heavy stick to beat the Tory councillors with, ('Playing Politics With People Lives' was her central theme), and the media lapped it up.  She seems to have lost the argument, but the fact remains that it was an MP's involvement that grabbed the media's attention, not a West Swindon local councillor.  Peter became, using his own words, 'a bit embarrassed'.  A reluctant hero perhaps, but to describe this as what a  'powerful force local politicians can be', is stretching it Rod.  Annie miscalculated and the local Tories reaped the unexpected media exposure of an unplanned but lucky break, end of.

Rod also asserts that it's a short hop from being 'resolute' to becoming dictatorial. Maybe so, but he then tries to underpin this assertion by highlighting the 'danger' of a 'powerful' Elected Mayor serving a four year term of public service, during which the other councillors can't remove him, or her, from office.  There are several problems with this argument, (not least of which is that Rod also argues that the Government hasn't given elected Mayors enough powers!).

Rod inadvertently but starkly illustrates how 'accountability' means a very different different thing to politicians than it does to voters. Voters want their leaders to be accountable to them, not their party political colleagues.  Politicians think being accountable to their colleagues makes them accountable to the entire electorate. It obviously doesn't, but that won't stop them claiming that it does.

When a council leader or cabinet member says they are 'accountable' to the town, what this actually means is that they are accountable to their party political colleagues. It is they who appoint and remove each other from a leader or cabinet position, not the electorate.  If they behave in such a way that the electorate wish to remove them, they must wait until the next election to do so, and even then only the voters of the single ward which voted for them can remove them. Is this accountable to the entire town?, it plainly isn't.  It's worth noting that local councillors also serve four year terms, during which the electorate can't remove them either.

Our Members of Parliament, Anne Snelgrove and Michael Wills....both elected for four year terms, hold considerably more power than either the leader of the council or an elected mayor, neither is, or can be held accountable by the entire town until a general election is called....but we're hearing no complaint about the power they hold or the length of their terms from Rod...despite the fact that most of his cabinet privately agree that one of them crossed the line from resolute to dictatorial a long time back......so no, I don't think the 'Four Year Term' argument works from the point of view of the average voter, although it's obviously an attractive one from a party-political and self-interested perspective.

Rod has a friend who is doing a thesis on elected Mayors and I'm assuming that this friend is the source for many of the statistics Rod has produced.   I haven't checked Rods figures because, as is popularly accepted, statistics can be presented in many different ways to suit many different arguments...which makes me think of Benjamin Disraeli's famous quote:  'There's Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics', (later popularised by Mark Twain).

What I will suggest is that a smoke screen of figures is being laid down to support x, y and z arguments, but what isn't being acknowledged here, and what Rod won't want to admit, is that Councils can, (and already have done), change their constitutions in multiple ways to accomodate a new leadership structure, including the length of term an elected mayor would serve. Rods attempt to focus readers minds on 'four years' is a hopeful but transparent piece of spin which is utterly derailed by all the other instances of public servants serving four year terms in office which he, and his colleagues, apparently find quite acceptable. When it suits eh?

This is nice...

Quote from: Rod Bluh
My core belief is in strong, representative local self-government and I believe that is best guaranteed by the present system.'


...and I believe that Rod does actually believe this, and while Rod is leader of the council I'm sure he'll do a good job, but, let's not forget that it was also the current leadership system that saw Labour leader Sue Bates and her cabinet run the Borough into the ground....a leadership system that Rods political predecessor, along with Labours Sue Bates and Liberal Democrat Mike Evemy decided, (in the face of considerable evidence that it was not the leadership model the public actually wanted), would be adopted by Swindon Borough Council because it was what they, as leaders of the three political parties wanted.....and they pulled it off!, with no discussion and no debate. 

Rod might be doing a reasonable job now, but Bates didn't. What about Rods successor....will they?

The current system does not offer the guarantees Rod suggests and the current system does not enable every voter in the Borough to hold the leader individually accountable.

We'll see what happens at tonight's council but I can already hear the sound of a civic carpet being lifted and brush removed from a cleaning cupboard.....

...so what I'd like to start thinking seriously about is inviting Elected Mayors from other towns to come to Swindon and discuss their experiences.  I'm interested in hearing Mayor Ray 'Robo Cop' Mallon explain how he has cut crime in Middlesborough by over 25% since he was elected....

...and how Mayor Stuart 'Hangus The Monkey' Drummond has enabled crime to be cut by over 20% in Hartlepool and whose local schools have just delivered their best ever exam results.

I don't have Swindons crime and educational figures to hand, but has Rod achieved comparable results in Swindon?, if he has it will make for a very interesting public debate, but if he hasn't.....

  
« Last Edit: September 25, 2008, 02:30:00 PM by Geoff Reid »

Offline swindonlinkman

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Re: Councillor Pajak to Propose Local Referendum Motion
« Reply #4 on: September 25, 2008, 01:32:07 PM »
I'd like to thank Geoff for his long, well argued analysis of Rod's piece in the Advertiser. Rod was invited to spell out his views on Elected Mayors in the September Link magazine. It's a pity that he offered up a vapid, fence sitting collection of words which ignored the real issues and left the reader confused. Nevertheless it's good that Stan' motion is raising the temperature of the debate, and I can see why Geoff is more than just a little irritated by the wriggling that's going on.

At this moment the Labour group have not declared their view on Elected Mayors in advance of the council meeting tonight, but I imagine they will fall in line with the Conservatives to preserve the status quo and ignore the decision of 2001, and continue to deny citizen's the opportunity to express a view on the issue.

Offline Mart

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Re: Councillor Pajak to Propose Local Referendum Motion
« Reply #5 on: September 25, 2008, 01:37:11 PM »
I don't know the chap, just his public persona, but that reads like several hundred words of sphincter clenching.

Politicians are not presently popular, the public, in general, would like them to be more accountable to the public, rather than their party.

Having endured a few days of gordnon proposing that only his bunch of twittering compromised lefties are in possession of the ideas that can fix this country, though it's not broken, and that the tories, or indeed anyone else has nothing to offer is clearly ridiculous in the extreme, as are the counter claims from the tories, a blend is the only answer.

Party politics have no place in politics, a simple yet profoundly correct statement, common sense and professionalism are quite useful, but in a democracy which we claim to have, the most important thing to have is majority approval.

If we want it, they are obliged to deliver it, like it or not.

But they won't, cos they are looking after number 1 and party, they know best.
Sometimes I think you have to march right in and demand your rights, even if you don’t know what your rights are, or who the person is you’re talking to. Then, on the way out, slam the door.

Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Councillor Pajak to Propose Local Referendum Motion
« Reply #6 on: September 25, 2008, 03:28:24 PM »
 
 
Quote
I'd like to thank Geoff for his long, well argued analysis of Rod's piece in the Advertiser.

Not sought, but thanks anyway. 

Mart provides his usual, concise and deadly accurate summary:

Quote from: Mart
"Party politics have no place in politics, a simple yet profoundly correct statement, common sense and professionalism are quite useful, but in a democracy which we claim to have, the most important thing to have is majority approval. If we want it, they are obliged to deliver it, like it or not.

But they won't, cos they are looking after number 1 and party, they know best."


Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Councillor Pajak to Propose Local Referendum Motion
« Reply #7 on: September 25, 2008, 03:40:41 PM »
 
I was considering Marts reply when I remembered 3 quotes, (all from Conservative Councillors), on Talkswindon, .

So before any of us trot down to Euclid Street public gallery and peer over the safety rail to observe the herd-instinct and group voting of the party-politicians at work.....

.....here's some appetizing nuggets of political opinion to chew on first.


Their relevance to this debate and tonights proceedings is, I think, self explanatory.


Cllr Keith Williams on Council Chamber behaviour.


Just read this and thought it worth clarifying that the verbal antics and faux animosity in the Council chamber are 80% for show.



Justin Tomlinson on Proportional Representation. The attendant irony within this quote is obvious.

I have a major, major problem with PR...

Politicians will be answerable to their Party masters, and not the electorate - corruption here we come (Italy... etc)

Parties and individuals need shocks, and need to be directly answerable.

We have seen with MEPs how remote they have become since they became answerable to only their Parties members.




And finally.... Cllr Michael Dickinson, while discussing floor crossers proudly explains why the very principle of 'party' politics is based on a deception.


It's still an interesting & very little known fact in the UK you vote for the person & not for the party - the party name & emblem are very recent (before it use to be a description & anyone could call themselves anything within reason). So people who cross the floor remain elected.


Makes you think don't it?......



Offline Critique

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Re: Councillor Pajak to Propose Local Referendum Motion
« Reply #8 on: September 25, 2008, 03:45:47 PM »
The people have long memories and wise cynicism whilst the politicians blithly forget their earlier pronouncements

Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Councillor Pajak to Propose Local Referendum Motion
« Reply #9 on: September 25, 2008, 04:07:17 PM »
The people have long memories and wise cynicism whilst the politicians blithly forget their earlier pronouncements

They certainly do.


Word just in from both the Conservative and Labour groups is that their agreed party lines are to oppose Councillor Pajaks motion.


A result that has been decided before the promised debate has even taken place.  It doesn't matter what is now said, or how convincing the arguments 'for' might be, the contributors to the debate will now be wasting their breath.


That's local democracy at work that is, or at least the puppet-show version you get when party politics is pulling the strings.

Is it any wonder that the voting public is increasingly disengaged from the process?....which, of course, suits 'our' representatives just fine.


Is anyone surprised?   I'm not. It's just another example of what's wrong with the current system and current style of leadership.  :)



Offline Keith

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Re: Councillor Pajak to Propose Local Referendum Motion
« Reply #10 on: September 25, 2008, 05:17:17 PM »
The people have long memories and wise cynicism whilst the politicians blithly forget their earlier pronouncements

They certainly do.

Word just in from both the Conservative and Labour groups is that their agreed party lines are to oppose Councillor Pajaks motion.

I'll happily stand by my earlier statement. It is marvellous that Geoff is aware of the party group line before the members themselves!

Offline Alligator

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Re: Councillor Pajak to Propose Local Referendum Motion
« Reply #11 on: September 25, 2008, 06:18:47 PM »
I'll happily stand by my earlier statement.

Fair enough, that shows some moral fibre

It is marvellous that Geoff is aware of the party group line before the members themselves!

I notice that you're not denying that there IS a party line, or suggesting that Geoff is wrong in what he says.   ::)

Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Councillor Pajak to Propose Local Referendum Motion
« Reply #12 on: September 25, 2008, 07:08:33 PM »
 
I'll happily stand by my earlier statement. It is marvellous that Geoff is aware of the party group line before the members themselves!

Don't worry Keith, by now you'll have been told which way you'll be voting.

I would be more than happy for you to prove my sources wrong, but it will be another nail in the already diminutive coffin holding my respect for Swindon councillors if they are proved right. Again. 

I'm not going to hold my breath though, in fact I'm that sure of tonight's vote that I've decided not to waste my time turning up for a faux debate and pre-determined result.  :)

Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Councillor Pajak to Propose Local Referendum Motion
« Reply #13 on: September 25, 2008, 10:57:59 PM »
 
 
Well, am I surprised?

Nope.

Cllr Pajak's second version of his motion was rejected by everyone in the chamber apart from Stan himself, (Cllrs Wood and Martin 'The Invisible Man' Wiltshire didn't attend).

David Sammels initially tried to have the motion thrown out because, with the absence of Cllrs Wood and Wiltshire, there was no immediate seconder.

Rod Bluh then proposed an amendment, seconded by Cllr Nick Martin which read:

Quote
"That SBC notes that it is the present policy of the current government to facilitate the introduction of directly-elected mayors.
The council accepts that the people of Swindon have a right to petition to hold a referendum on whether Swindon should have a directly elected mayor"
.

The Labour group voted with the Conservative group and passed the amended motion.  Councillor Pajak voted against the amended version.

I'm told the 'debate' was pitiful with a few good points being made by Stan and Peter Greenhalgh.... and a lot of condescending smugness emanating from Nick Martin.

The conservative group did as they were told, as did the labourites.  The puppet show went ahead as predicted.

Am I disappointed, saddened or angry?, nope...because the herd behaved exactly as expected.  :)


Offline Alligator

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Re: Councillor Pajak to Propose Local Referendum Motion
« Reply #14 on: September 26, 2008, 07:14:56 AM »
Am I disappointed, saddened or angry?, nope...because the herd behaved exactly as expected.  :)

Me neither, not only because I saw this motion for the toothless exercise that it was, but also because, on this issue, the views of councillors is irrelevant and to a large extent are discredited by their actions both in 2001 and their herd mentality last night.

It is the voters that will control where this issue goes from here, not a bunch of self servers in Euclid St.

One thing that did come out of all this is clear evidence that SBC is largely made up of councillors that are actually fearful of democracy.  I find this quite ironic.

Offline Terminatrix

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Re: Councillor Pajak to Propose Local Referendum Motion
« Reply #15 on: September 26, 2008, 09:26:24 AM »
 

Quote
"That SBC notes that it is the present policy of the current government to facilitate the introduction of directly-elected mayors.
The council accepts that the people of Swindon have a right to petition to hold a referendum on whether Swindon should have a directly elected mayor"
.

Very sad that Councillor Bluh viewed his own amendment as a suitable vehicle to score points against the one policy to come out of a Labour government which has merit.

This:  "That SBC notes that it is the present policy of the current government" - sounds more bitchy than resolute leader.  :-\

Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Councillor Pajak to Propose Local Referendum Motion
« Reply #16 on: September 26, 2008, 10:08:38 AM »
 
 
[float=left][/float] Busy at mo. will add some comment later

Offline Keith

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Re: Councillor Pajak to Propose Local Referendum Motion
« Reply #17 on: September 26, 2008, 12:40:59 PM »
I'll happily stand by my earlier statement.

Fair enough, that shows some moral fibre

It is marvellous that Geoff is aware of the party group line before the members themselves!

I notice that you're not denying that there IS a party line, or suggesting that Geoff is wrong in what he says.   ::)

The Conservative line is that it is up to local authorities to decide for themselves. Last night was a free vote for the Conservative group, it is just that none of us thought it prudent to spend around £100,000 on a referendum when it was reported that only 46 people had signed a petition calling for one.
I was surprised at how low this figure was especially considering the campaign has been publicised in The Link across 24,000 homes. Perhaps with The Advertiser publicity that number will grow?

Offline Alligator

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Re: Councillor Pajak to Propose Local Referendum Motion
« Reply #18 on: September 26, 2008, 12:53:37 PM »
The Conservative line is that it is up to local authorities to decide for themselves.

It is my line that it is up to the local PEOPLE to decide for themselves.....was this a freudian slip Keith?

Last night was a free vote for the Conservative group,

free as long as you did as you were told, eh?   ::)

it is just that none of us thought it prudent to spend around £100,000 on a referendum when it was reported that only 46 people had signed a petition calling for one.

The campaign hasn't really got started, I think Geoff summed up the rationale for this very well here:

We have deliberately employed a 'soft start' approach to this because we really do want a good quality and informed debate to take place.

As recent events in Stoke on Trent have shown, it is easy to collect the number of petition signatures needed to force a referendum, but democracy in the Borough of Swindon will be better served by discussing this inteeligently from start to finish....whatever the finish turns out to be.

The party politicists have so far demonstrated an unhealthy desire to ignore their past mistakes, rush past any thoughtful and intelligent discussion and move straight towards an end result, which is, so far, almost a carbon copy of the way the council behaved in 2001.   

Yes. We want quality first, quantity later.


Offline Buster

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Re: Councillor Pajak to Propose Local Referendum Motion
« Reply #19 on: September 26, 2008, 01:22:27 PM »
The Conservative line is that it is up to local authorities to decide for themselves.

It is my line that it is up to the local PEOPLE to decide for themselves.....was this a freudian slip Keith?

Sadly I don't think it was a freudian slip.  If I recall rightly from the video posted elsewhere on here, when asked about this at Greendown School, David Cameron did say that it was for the people to decide, perhaps the local conservatives are just adopting their own local policy on this, albeit an authoritarian one.