I’ve had a busy few days which have kept me away from here, and as some personal matters progress I am finding it more difficult to make time to attend to this long running blog, additionally the photoblog at South Shields Daily Pictures has captured a lot of interest and is also consuming my time and resources.
Despite bemoaning our local politicians I do like to find the time to promote all that is best about South Shields and South Tyneside as a a place to live, and one of the best ways that I can do that is pictorially, which, I hope you will agree, I try to do in an interesting and pleasing way.
The great shame is that many of our local councillors in South Tyneside seem too have forgotten why they were elected, and some of them get afflicted by this amnesia in a very short period of time following an election. With fresh elections coming along for 18 councillors on 6th. May it is worth reflecting on what some of our councillors do with a slice of their time at (or not at) South Shields Town Hall on our behalf.
In this respect I am grateful for the amount of work expended by The Fat Councillor, a relatively new blogger reporting on matters in South Tyneside and beyond, who has gained a very healthy readership in a quite short period of time. It seems that this blog was primarily set up in response to a plethora of attack blogs and Twitter accounts which did nothing at all to promote the best interests of South Tyneside, and illustrated the amount of time spent by some local politicos on launching tit for tat personal attacks against a handful of our elected councillors and carried little in the way of policy initiatives or meaningful dialogue with the people that these sites were aimed at (their electorate at ward level). Ahmed’s Wise Words seems to be dishing out ripostes and a “taste of their own medicine” in good measure. It has also given me the opportunity to put me feet up for a few days now and then.
Today the Fat Councillor is revealing details from a report setting out the number and type of complaints submitted to either the local Monitoring Officer or sent to the Standards Board for England and Wales in respect of the standards of behaviour expected from your local councillors. I have a copy of the report and it makes extremely interesting reading (click the picture above to enlarge). Th Fat Councillor’s pie charts, for which I give him/her credit, quickly and graphically illustrate that only a handful of our councillors are responsible for a huge chunk of officer’s time wasted away pursuing petty minor complaints and that real complaints submitted by members of the public not associated with the political bodies represented on South Tyneside Council amount to next to nothing at all.
The document that I have in front of me covers the period from May 2008 to December 2009 and details 66 complaints made against councillors, 26 of these complaints were made by councillors objecting to the behavioural standards of other councillors, a further 7 complaints were made by people known to be associated with political organisations or elected representatives. Additionally, 9 complaints were made by people I know to be working for South Tyneside Council as public servants, and 5 complaints were received by a journalist or a residents association. Which leaves just 19 possibly made by genuinely aggrieved single electors, and some of those were complaints of the more serious kind.
Of the complaints received and investigated 46 were made against independent councillors (both Real and Independent Alliance) and 6 were made against Conservative councillors, and 14 were made against Labour councillors.
Of the complaints made 22 were submitted by Independent councillors and 4 were made by Conservative councillors.
The councillor who generated the most complaints against others was Ahmed Khan with seven, closely followed by Jane Branley with six, the councillor most complained against was Ahmed Khan (17 complaints) followed by George Elsom (14 complaints).
Which leaves you wondering – how right are people’s opinions when they claim that South Tyneside councillors are nothing more than a bunch of squabbling kids?
Those genuine members of the public (i.e. those not generally associated with the political bodies) who attend meetings at South Shields Town Hall, tend to come away dismayed and disheartened at the very poor standard of debate and discussion. The most noise made during and after meetings comes from those most closely and clearly associated with the political process, the rest just simply don’t want to talk about it.
I’d like to think that this document gives a clearer insight to the workings of the checks and balances in place which regulate the behavioural standards that we expect from our councillors, but my dismay at seeing so many independent councillors either on the receiving end of complaints or making complaints against others (frequently their former friends and allies) will probably not be shared by them. My guess is that they’ll see these statistics as something to crow about and be proud of, like the terrors on our estates who collect ASBOs to wear like medals on the chest!
Finally, back to Ahmed’s Wise Words, I have been asked a few times in the past week if I am The Fat Councillor, the answer to that is an emphatic NO, but I like his/her line in graphics and pictures. It is, at times, an amusing and savagely corrosive deconstruction of politicians both local and national, the author seems to have tapped a rich source of revealing material recently, so it is certainly worth a read. He (for I am assuming the author is male) can also be followed on Twitter.
We all like to have a little moan and complain now and then, but we surely expect our elected councillors to be more than a bunch of “moaning minnies”, surely we ought to expect them to work together, even in opposition, to promote the very best interests of South Tyneside. Debate and discussion should always be about policy, ideas, and vision for the future, NOT about personalities.