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A Victory for Democracy, Common-sense (and lower Council Tax bills)

September 19, 2014 4:45 PM

Lib Dem Success - Lower Council Tax Bills:

An attempt by Maidstone Conservatives to slash the frequency of local elections from three out of every four years down to just once every four years has been defeated by Maidstone Lib Dems, supported by other like minded councillors.

Local Lib Dems successfully argued that in councils with annual elections politicians are 'kept on their toes'. They tend to have lower average council tax increases and unpopular policy changes are not 'buried' at the beginning of four year terms.

North Ward Lib Dem Councillor Tony Harwood in an impassioned speech told gathered councillors at Maidstone Town Hall: "Annual council elections are a vital check and balance on financial and political recklessness, and that most unappealing habit of politicians of relying on the public having short memories."

Lib Dem Success - Greater Influence for Local Communities:

At the same meeting the Liberal Democrats successfully tabled a motion to scrap the undemocratic Cabinet and Scrutiny system of local government and re-introduce the tried and tested Committee system. Currently under the Cabinet and Scrutiny system (imposed by the Blair government) nearly all power is concentrated in the hands of just six Conservative councillors. This change will return power to residents through empowering all 55 of their elected councillors to work effectively and influentially on their behalf.

High Street Ward Lib Dem Councillor Denise Joy argued that "the public expect all councillors to be involved in decision making. They do not vote for 1st and 2nd class councillors." Councillor Tony Harwood added "Better and more democratic decisions are made under the Committee system, and they are made more efficiently. Maidstone Council delivered two Local Plans on time and on budget under the committee system, and all 55 councillors were equal in their advocacy on behalf of the communities they represent. The Cabinet and Scrutiny system was meant to bring accountability instead it has brought delay, fudged decisions and Cabinet Members hiding behind officers and consultants."

Leader of the Lib Dem Group and High Street Ward Councillor Fran Wilson closed her speech with a characteristically statesman-like observation "Our intent is to introduce a democratic and updated Committee System of governance from the 2015 council Annual General Meeting. However, we pledge that we will not permit the work to enable this to happen to disrupt or delay council business or service delivery in any way."