Recently in Local government Category

This may prove to be as accurate as my 2008 "Thatcher no more" post, but a Twitter source claims Steven Purcell is resigning for personal reasons (not to stand for Westminster as had been rumoured). 

If it's true, especially if he really has "jumped before he was pushed", this is a serious blow to Labour. He's been running Scotland's largest local authority, one of the few remaining Labour-only administrations. 

He's also long been touted as a future LOLITSP, and constitutes approximately 100% of the party's rising stars in Scotland. 

Let's see what tomorrow's papers hold. The full story is apparently due then.

Why votes at 16 matter.

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youthvote.jpgI've got in my hand a flyer given out by Scottish Youth Parliament activists on the Gude Cause suffragette march the weekend before last. It lists what sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds can do, or can be made to do. 

They point out that this age group can be tried in court as an adult, join the army, own their own home, and pay taxes, but not vote. 

It's a persuasive argument, even if discrimination against the young is in one sense more egalitarian than discrimination against women or members of ethnic minorities. We were all young once, even Bill Aitken.

The reason I'm so committed to this cause is a little different, though.

Last year we had a young man in our Holyrood office on a work placement arranged by his school. These can be a bit high maintenance and sometimes of dubious value, but he was smart as hell, immediately got the basics of writing a press release, and fitted in from the start. He was also very politically aware, and pretty passionate.

He was fifteen at the time, and he had done the sums. He knew he'd turn eighteen in 2011, just a couple of months after the next Holyrood election, and wouldn't get a say in a Scottish election until he was practically twenty-two, seven years away.

Another very good friend of mine is in a similar position. He'll be a year and a month too young to vote in the 2011 elections, and (assuming the next UK cycle is four years long) he'll be in his twenties before he gets to vote either for Westminster or Holyrood. He'll just miss the 2012 Scottish locals, too, so won't get to vote for his local councillors until he's almost twenty-three.

Like our work placement friend, he's very politically literate, very knowledgeable and passionate about the issues. But politicians can safely ignore him as long as the voting age remains at eighteen.

The idea you can vote at eighteen is, after all, awfully contingent on there being an election on your eighteenth birthday, and the current arrangement means a lot of people in their twenties will have had no opportunity to vote for at least one of the levels of government that matters. Just wrong.

"Votes at sixteen" is therefore slightly misleading, although I see why they chose it. Plenty of people much older than that will get disenfranchised too, and the problem is much wider than people normally think.

Some patronising fools claim we can't trust these young people to vote responsibly. Just as with the older generations, though, many of those who don't care or don't know anything about politics simply won't vote at all. And who are we to say what a responsible vote is anyway? Let the (young) people decide for themselves.
debrakayak.jpgDebra Storr, erstwhile Lib Dem Councillor, enthusiastic kayaker, and staunch defender of local residents against rapacious developers, has put in her form to join the Greens. Her website has gone very green as well, but, like Martin Ford, she'll stay as part of the Democratic Independent Group on Aberdeenshire Council. She says: 

"I urge others disgusted at the failure of political leadership amongst current elected representatives in the north-east to join me in the Scottish Green Party as a first step to giving the north-east a better set of representatives for the future." 

It's great - that will take us to ten Councillors who are also Greens. I've really enjoyed being Martin's colleague, and I'm looking forward to working with Debra too. 

I wonder if the bookies are offering odds on a Green MSP being returned again for the North East in 2011?

What planet are they on?

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ballerinaalien.jpgWinchester Lib Dem Councillor Adrian Hicks had a curious secret when he stood for election in 2006 and 2007. He felt that admitting he’d seen an alien dressed as a ballerina under the city’s Guildhall clock might jeopardise his chances.

The alien was laughing and having a good time, and apparently was “human enough to get away with it.”

As it happens, he lost anyway in 2006 before coming from third to win in 2007. Having served his area for two years now, he feels confident enough to come out, and he’s trying to track her down, presumably so they can go to Venus together.

Grazia have some potentially interesting information for him - they worked out who made her dress. I agree that the likely explanation is terrestrial. He probably just doesn’t know what kind of sunglasses are in fashion.

Still, we shouldn’t laugh. He’s in good company. The wife of the new Japanese Prime Minister believes she was abducted and taken to Venus. It could be worse. Councillor Hicks could have taken her to his leader.

(via glum councillors)

milkorange.jpgThere's something about the SNP and the Liberals in coalition at local authority level which really doesn't work, as we've been finding out since May 2007. 

A chunk of the electorate vote for the SNP milk, and others back the Liberal orange juice, but then the results come in and it all gets poured into the same glass. Unpleasant.

The best explanation I have for this is to do with political principles. The SNP have a single such principle, but sadly it doesn't tell you anything about how to run a local authority beyond "don't embarrass the First Minister otherwise people won't ever vote for independence". 

On the other side, it's hard to identify whether any Liberal principles survive into the modern age. They're for Heathrow expansion and against it, they're for SUV-specific congestion charges and against them, for incinerators and against them, and the list goes on.

The useful thing about having more principles is that it helps you make consistent decisions, decisions which your electorate could rightfully expect you to make. Otherwise you tend to follow what the local paper says as a substitute for leadership or even accountability, or just to twist in the wind of your internal politics.

Edinburgh is a great example. Local residents can only watch as an incompetent administration makes a fist of a public transport scheme that only one of the parties wanted. The SNP in particular constantly bitch about the chaos caused by the installation of the first tram line, while somehow not noticing that they've been in charge of it for more than two years now. Having failed to block it altogether, it's like they've decided to deliver it as incompetently as possible to prove they were right.

The bin dispute is another classic, where a decision devoid of principle has come back to bite them hard. Why don't we offer staff a -50% pay rise and see what happens? Oh, a strike, you say? Jenny Dawe's approach here will be useful to future textbook writers as a case study for how not to treat those already on low pay but properly unionised.

In Aberdeen, it's fair, this same glass of curdled politics inherited a spectacular hole from the last administration, but the Liberals were in that coalition too, so my instinct is to blame them. They did avoid going bankrupt, which is great, and recent reports suggest some progress, but Aberdeen City Council is still hardly a role model for others. 

East Lothian Council has largely avoided problems on this scale, but this week's defection of a husband-and-wife pair of Liberal councillors to their SNP coalition partners must be making for some tense times in the Council chambers and probably some awkward family photos. Here's the previous round of (wildly inaccurate) speculation on the subject for reference. Sounds like fun!

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This page is a archive of recent entries in the Local government category.

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