Friday, April 18, 2008

Power to the People

Real grass roots politics is to be found in the Parish councils which exist in parts of the country. Egglescliffe and Eaglescliffe council covers the old Egglescliffe ward area and used to be known as Egglescliffe Parish Council. Although no-one stands for election to it on Party grounds, some are members of political parties, and I was a member of the Parish for years before being elected to the Borough.
One of the big differences between the Parish council and the Borough council is that once a year the Parish has an assembly when the council reports to the residents on what it has done on their behalf over the last year and sometimes on what it hopes to do in the future. Last night was such a meeting. It was lively, interesting and engaging and if the Borough council had the courage to learn from the Parish we would have more interest and enthusiasm for politics. Residents came, listened, challenged and debated with councillors over issues which concern them. It was hard work in preparation and execution, but by golly it was worth it!
An hour earlier I'd been at a really difficult meeting to draw up the scope of the review which the Environment Select committee is going to be doing. Because of a new system of spreading the work load we're not doing anything related to the Environment but we're looking into "Customer First" which is a scheme within the council to try to ensure that customer service is first rate and that if problems arise they're dealt with effectively. It was difficult, not because there are lots of problems, but because the chair and vice chair of the committee knew nothing about the reason for being asked to look at the question and so took a long time to work out what could be done by the committee. It won't be anything like as interesting as the last two reviews but I suppose we can't always have the really interesting ones!
Sadly, because this meeting lasted a lot longer than expected, the diet went out of the window and a quick call to the local fish & chip shop replaced cooking a healthy meal!

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