Author Topic: Elected Mayors: Adver Webchat with Geoff Reid 14/10/08  (Read 1477 times)

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Offline Geoff Reid

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Elected Mayors: Adver Webchat with Geoff Reid 14/10/08
« on: October 18, 2008, 08:30:08 AM »
http://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/mayor/mayornews/3754401.WEBCHAT__With_Geoff_Reid/

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12:00pm Tuesday 14th October 2008

comment Comments (27)   Have your say »


WELCOME to the second of our elected mayor webchats, today featuring Geoff Reid, the man behind talkswindon.

Geoff, a 44-year-old married father-of-two, is a resident of West Swindon.

He isn't a member of a political party but describes himself as being keenly interested in Swindon's politicians, particularly in what they say and do. Geoff developed an online community where Swindonians discuss and debate events in the council chamber.

"We should scrutinise the words and actions of our local councillors much more", said Geoff.

"If members of the talkswindon forum hadn't taken an interest in the roll-out of wheelie bins and put pressure on SBC cabinet members, every bin in the borough would now be micro-chipped and residents would probably be 'paying as they throw', and paying much more as a result."

Talkswindon is currently running a petition in a bid to bring about a referendum on the issue of elected mayors.

Geoff's favourite phrase is: quis custodiet ipsos custodes? or 'who watches the watchers?'.

Geoff will be online from 12pm to debate the pros and cons of elected mayors. We would ask all participants to be polite and observe the usual Newsquest rules. Thank you, and enjoy the debate.


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Geoff Reid, West Swindon says...
12:03pm Tue 14 Oct 08
Good afternoon....


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Buster, says...
12:06pm Tue 14 Oct 08
Hi Geoff,

I've read some of the information that you have posted on talkswindon and it suggests that you think that the reason a debate now is related to the way the councillors overruled the public opinion in 2001. Yesterday Justin described their approach as being a mistake.

What do you make of the way councillors have reacted to your campaign?


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Geoff Reid, West Swindon says...
12:14pm Tue 14 Oct 08
Hi Buster.

Our councillors have reacted exactly as I expected them to, with only two exceptions.

Cllr Pete Greenhalgh says this is an issue for the public to debate.

Cllr Tomlinson's admission that the 2001 council made a mistake is, so far, the only, comment made by any councillors who were 'in office' in 2001.

I think, as far as most of the present council are concerned, they are happy with the result of the 2001 'mistake', which makes this the debate they don't want to happen, and certainly don't want to be involved in.


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FlabbyGeek, Swindon says...
12:19pm Tue 14 Oct 08
Hi Geoff, I'm a newcomer to this debate as, if I'm honest, I feel pretty apathetic toward the issue. I don’t know whether you’re pro or anti having an elected Mayor, or even just raising the issue, but can you tell me why I should be interested in this?
Don’t get me wrong, I do take an interest in local politics and always vote, but I’m quite happy with the current council and would like to know how much of a change an elected mayor would make?
 


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sn5, swindon says...
12:25pm Tue 14 Oct 08
geoff, can't see the point of an elected mayor. it will be another election that no one will vote in and mean everyone in swindon will have to complain to the same person and so s/he will never get anything done
 


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Buster, says...
12:26pm Tue 14 Oct 08
There's something that I'm not clear on. If the people decide to sign the petition for a referendum, we'll need to know what powers and what term a mayor would serve. Who will decide on these proposals so that they can be put to the people?


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sn5, swindon says...
12:28pm Tue 14 Oct 08
geoff, will you trust the adver's poll results when they come out, especially as one of the places to vote is in bassett which is outside of swindon?


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Mallrat, Swindon says...
12:28pm Tue 14 Oct 08
Geoff, If no more people bother to vote under an elected mayor system, why is that better for democracy?



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Geoff Reid, West Swindon says...
12:35pm Tue 14 Oct 08
Hello FB

I suppose I'd encourage you to ask yourself to ask whether you'd like the leader of your council to be more accountable to you.

To explain further, unless you live in Dorcan Ward you cannot hold the current leader of the council accountable. You cannot vote for, or against him.

If you live in Central, Gorsehill, Pinehurst or Penhill there is nothing you can do at the ballot box to influence whether the current leader stays or goes.

That decision is taken for you by a small group of 43 councillors.

If you lived in Swindon in 2001 you should have been given the opportunity to vote on a choice of leadership models, but you weren't.

I would hope those two points alone might perk your interest up a bit, but as time is short, I hope you'll visit the Talkswindon forum where a decent and well informed discussion is taking place. Several contributors have asked the same questions, me included. (initially).

http://www.talkswindon.org/index.php?topic=3224.0




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Geoff Reid, West Swindon says...
12:42pm Tue 14 Oct 08

   
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Mallrat wrote:
    Geoff, If no more people bother to vote under an elected mayor system, why is that better for democracy?


Hi.

Doesn't your question assume that the same people, but less of them, will vote in council and mayoral elections.

If some people vote in mayoral elections, but not in council elections then I suppose you could argue that more people overall are voting.

Perhaps you could explain why a 'no-increase' in votor turnout would be a bad thing for democracy?

It seems that our local councillors are happy with a decreasing level of interest....



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Big Mac, Old Town says...
12:44pm Tue 14 Oct 08
Geoff, you should ask the Adver to provide a proper, working and prominent link to the Talk Swindon petition area.

I'd like to wish you all the best with the petition, it's good that there are people around who take an interest in ensuring our politicians don't get a completely free ride.

How you will actually conquer the public's apathy on this is a tough one - I fear it may be extremely difficult, especially during this precise moment in time where many people have more pressing concerns on their mind.



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Gingerboy, West Swindon says...
12:46pm Tue 14 Oct 08
Geoff,

I would just like to thank you for opening my eyes to something that Swindon Council has long since tried to have forgotten.

Not only have you spiked my interest but you have also shown some politicians to be opposed to democracy unless it's on their terms. Rod Bluh is a prime example, but I'm sure there are many others.

Rod would have the most to lose if people want an elected mayor so he's probably just looking out for number 1. I'm sure people will see that.

Politicians talk about being democratic, but that's all it is...talk, otherwise they would hold their hands up now and say "we made a mistake, let's see if we can put it right"



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Geoff Reid, West Swindon says...
12:49pm Tue 14 Oct 08

   
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sn5 wrote:
    geoff, will you trust the adver's poll results when they come out, especially as one of the places to vote is in bassett which is outside of swindon?


I think the advers poll & debate serves to generate interest in the debate itself.

If the poll shows support for a local referendum and elected mayors the 'antis' will denigrate the polls validity.

If the poll shows little support for a local referendum I'm sure the same people will rely upon the poll as proof that there's little interest in the subject.

What I think is that the adver poll will show roughly the same 60% in favour 40% opposed ratio I've seen elsewhere.

Obviously Bassett's couldn't vote in a Swindon referendum, but their opinion is as valid as anyones isn't it?

I trust the poll to be a general gauge of adver readers opinions.




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Geoff Reid, West Swindon says...
12:56pm Tue 14 Oct 08

   
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Big Mac wrote:
    Geoff, you should ask the Adver to provide a proper, working and prominent link to the Talk Swindon petition area.

    I'd like to wish you all the best with the petition, it's good that there are people around who take an interest in ensuring our politicians don't get a completely free ride.

    How you will actually conquer the public's apathy on this is a tough one - I fear it may be extremely difficult, especially during this precise moment in time where many people have more pressing concerns on their mind.


Hi Big Mac.

Perhaps the adver web team will take notice of your suggestion....

..but in the meantime:

The Elected Mayor survey can be found here:

http://www.talkswindon.org/index.php?topic=3295.0

And the petition itself here:

http://www.talkswindon.org/petition

I fully appreciate that most peoples thoughts are fully occupied with making ends meet and worrying about the future.

Luckily, this is a slow-burning issue and it will take as long as it takes to come to a conclusion one way or the other.

I think it;s very important not to rush through such important issues and debates, (this is how the original 'mistake' was allowed to happen in 2001), because it's vital that an informed, sensible discussion happens well before anyone goes near a ballot box.
 



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Mallrat, Swindon says...
12:56pm Tue 14 Oct 08

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    Geoff Reid wrote:    Hi. Doesn't your question assume that the same people, but less of them, will vote in council and mayoral elections. If some people vote in mayoral elections, but not in council elections then I suppose you could argue that more people overall are voting. Perhaps you could explain why a 'no-increase' in votor turnout would be a bad thing for democracy? It seems that our local councillors are happy with a decreasing level of interest....


I think you answered my question in your previous answer. Since I can't vote in any way for the leader of the council.

'no increase' was simply to keep the comparison the same.

On your point about 2001 public opinion being ignored, don't the council have some sort of scrutiny committee to check this sort of thing?



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Buster, says...
1:01pm Tue 14 Oct 08
Geoff,

You mentioned earlier that only people in Dorcan can hold the current leader accountable and this makes sens as he has only faced the voters as a councillor, not as a leader of the council.

I live in the town centre where the environment I live in seems to be immediately impacted by things like Rod Bluh's decisions (I'm referring to issues like the wheelie bins, licencing hours, the regeneration and the canal)

What you say would mean that I have less of a say in these matters than people who live a few miles away and don;t have to deal with the impact of these on their day to day lives.

This alone is enough reason for me to sign the petition. I'm going to download it and pass itaround at work.



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Geoff Reid, West Swindon says...
1:02pm Tue 14 Oct 08
Gingerboy, you said:

"I would just like to thank you for opening my eyes to something that Swindon Council has long since tried to have forgotten."

Thanks.

If our councillors are increasingly aware that the public are taking an interest in them, the less likely it becomes that a '2001 mistake' will happen so easily in the future.

Remember Shaw Taylor on 'Police 5'?

'Keep 'em peeled'



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Malkym, Highworth on the hill says...
1:03pm Tue 14 Oct 08
Geoff's favourite phrase is: quis custodiet ipsos custodes? or 'who watches the watchers?'.

Mine is -> Gettus alifeus Geoffus subjectus trivia maximus extremeus currentus climatus!


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Geoff Reid, West Swindon says...
1:07pm Tue 14 Oct 08

   
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sn5 wrote:
    geoff, can't see the point of an elected mayor. it will be another election that no one will vote in and mean everyone in swindon will have to complain to the same person and so s/he will never get anything done



Hello SN5.

This doesn't seem to be the case in other towns with elected leaders.

Using just two examples of Mayors 'getting things done', Mayor Ray Mallon in Middlesborough has reduced crime by 25% and Mayor Stuart Drummond in Hartlepool has overseen the towns best school examination results for a long, long time.

I presume the complaints procedures would stay pretty much as they are now, but you'd need to verify that with a council clerk.



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Geoff Reid, West Swindon says...
1:23pm Tue 14 Oct 08

I've asked for the webchat to stay open for the time being as I haven't managed to respond to everyone yet.

Blame my slow typing.....



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Big Mac, Old Town says...
1:26pm Tue 14 Oct 08
Anything, or anyone, that could help reduce crime in the town would be a welcome development indeed.

However, when I specifically mentioned this to Justin, yesterday, he claimed an elected mayor would have little to no power over our unelected and unaccountable judges and magistrates - this, to my mind, is an even greater problem and pressing concern than the issue of an elected mayor.



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Geoff Reid, West Swindon says...
1:31pm Tue 14 Oct 08

Buster.

I'm glad you're interested in the petition because Rod Bluh suggested anyone wishing to sign the online petition should contact the Borough Solicitor, (Stephen Taylor), and ask whether it is valid.

I've been seeking advice on the validity of the online petition for several months. At present SBC will not accept the online petition as valid because there is no legislation currently in place which would force SBC to recognise it. There is a goverment white paper being prepared which *should* clarify this, but as it's been 7 years in the making I'm not holding my breath.

The online petition should be regarded, at this moment in time, as a statement of opinion and preference.

Rod could have clarified this point in a letter I received from him in July. He chose to keep quiet about it until he thought his announcement would squash interest. It had the opposite result though....

I did follow Rods public advice and contacted the Borough Solicitor again, regarding the format the paper petition needs to be in to be accepted by SBC. The Borough Solicitor promised to reply the next week.

I'm still waiting to hear from him....luckily, we're in no rush, informed debate first, petition second, referendum last.

Someone ask me whether Rod Bluh has received any post regarding this?

He says he hasn't.....



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Geoff Reid, West Swindon says...
1:40pm Tue 14 Oct 08

   
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Big Mac wrote:
    Anything, or anyone, that could help reduce crime in the town would be a welcome development indeed.

    However, when I specifically mentioned this to Justin, yesterday, he claimed an elected mayor would have little to no power over our unelected and unaccountable judges and magistrates - this, to my mind, is an even greater problem and pressing concern than the issue of an elected mayor.



I don't know how Mayor Mallon has done this, but I suspect it's because he's not interested in playing party-politics when it comes to law and order.

If enough people are interested I'll organise another public debate in Swindon and invite Mayor Mallon down to explain it in person.

Rod Bluh has changed his tune on this in the last week. Originally he said that elected leaders had too much power....

Then he said they didn't have enough power....

This weeks he says that directly elected leaders should have some control over the police, education and health services.

If we do start directly electing our own leaders I'd agree this should be looked at closely and thoroughly debated, but you need to directly elect a leader first, then look at this after we've had a good look at what sort of leader Swindon would produce.

I think I like the idea of mayoral candidates producing a personal manifesto, especially if they did have some control over policing etc.

If they didn't perform we can get shot of them again.

At present, council appointed leaders are impotent in this regard and often shrug their shoulders and offer the 'not me guv' excuse.



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Geoff Reid, West Swindon says...
2:22pm Tue 14 Oct 08
As our webchat has gone a bit quiet, I wandered over to the Talkswindon forum and quickly reviewed some of the pro and con arguments for directly electing our own leader of the council.

These are some points which come up again and again. Bear in mind that these points are raised by ordinary members of the public, not local councillors or members of parliament:

Public concern with the current model:

* Leader is selected, not necessarily based on merit, but on which party they are in, limiting the scope of available talent eligible to lead the town.

* Leader is selected and appointed without any public insight into the rationale, i.e. what strengths they bring, what they have promised in order to be selected.

* Being answerable to party colleagues means that the well being of the party may take priority over that of the town

* The accountability stretches only to those wards that have councillors of the same party, but residents who are extremely unhappy with the leader may be unwilling to 'oust' a hard working councillor, yet this is often the *only* way in which they can hold the leader accountable.

* Leader of council can be deposed due to internal party issues rather than for performance as leader.

* Leader is only elected by residents of one ward (currently that equates to 1292 Dorcan voters)

* Leader needs to listen to electorate only in his/her own ward. Some examples of how anti democratic this could be:

**** A Dorcan councillor can have undue influence over the education of children in Penhill (Academy)

***** The residents of Central, whose homes will be immediately impacted by the proposed canal cannot hold the leader accountable as he is only answerable to voters in Dorcan.

**** No public mandate for a canal as no local politician has been elected with this as a campaign pledge or manifesto.

**** No public mandate for the regeneration as no leader has been directly elected by the public with this as a campaign pledge or manifesto promise.

The Directly Elected Leader model:

* Overcomes most, if not all of the above by providing greater accountability to every single Swindon voter.

* A Figurehead who can drive the town's ambition, free of party political dogma and internal politics.

* The perception that a leader I voted for is actually my leader who I can vote for or against at the next election.



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Geoff Reid, West Swindon says...
2:49pm Tue 14 Oct 08

 
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  Mallrat wrote:I think you answered my question in your previous answer. Since I can't vote in any way for the leader of the council.
    'no increase' was simply to keep the comparison the same.

    On your point about 2001 public opinion being ignored, don't the council have some sort of scrutiny committee to check this sort of thing?



Mallrat

The council do have a scrutiny committee but, as the council failed to scrutinise itself properly when it voted, without debate, to change it's constitution on 2001 I question how well it works.

In 2007 the conservative councillors threw the leader of the labour group off the scrutiny committee, (he was chairing it), in a party-political spat over some election leaflets.

In his place the Conservative group appointed the newly independant Cllr David Glaholm to chair the scrutiny committee. Cllr Glaholm had recently 'crossed the floor' to the Tories amid allegations he'd been promised command of the scrutiny committee if he left the labour group.

A little while later Cllr Glaholm became embroiled in a bit of bother and the Tory group re-appointed Kevin Small to the chair of the committee. Since then he has 'behaved himself' to the Tories satisfaction.

Do I have any faith in Councillors ability to scrutinise themselves?

No. If they were scrutinising themselves effectively the '2001 mistake' would have been examined 7 years ago.

Cllr Stan Pajak, (Lib Dem - Eastcott ward), will be doing a webchat on Thursday of this week.

It will be interesting to learn what his opinion is.




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Geoff Reid, West Swindon says...
3:06pm Tue 14 Oct 08
Okay, we're nearly out of time so if there's any last minute points get 'em in quick!

A final update: While we've been online several readers of this webchat have visited Talkswindon and completed our Elected Mayors survey. Thank you all.

Am I disappointed that no councillors have engaged in our chat?, yes and no. It would have been interesting but I'm not surprised.

I'm looking forward to seeing what Anne Snelgrove has to say in her webchat tomorrow, and even more intrigued to learn what Rod Bluh's opinions will be on Friday....I hope he'll spend more than an hour explaining them!

If anyone wishes to further discuss anything in this webchat with me later this evening, please visit:

http://www.talkswindon.org/index.php?topic=3738.0

Cheers

Geoff

 

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Web Team, Swindon says...
3:25pm Tue 14 Oct 08
Thank you Geoff for taking part in the webchat and to all those who asked questions. This thread is now closed.

Log on tomorrow when Anne Snelgrove will be on hand to answer your questions about elected mayors.

Web Team